GlaxoSmithKline in controversy over fake tongue spray death warning

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Singer Alanis Morissette backs the claim

A political candidate in California has falsely claimed that mouthwash can kill Cipro, an anti-tuberculosis drug first developed by British company SmithKline Beecham.

The claim in a Facebook posting prompted a lawsuit and a recall of GlaxoSmithKline’s Dettol brand mouthwash.

Senator Kevin de Leon – a Democrat who holds the senate seat where SmithKline is based – has since denied he knew about the tagline at the time of the posting.

GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement that it “urged” Mr de Leon to remove the online message.

The London-listed firm said it urged GSK to contact the senator to “review how his inaccurate claim about a GlaxoSmithKline medicine was placed on his social media and to ensure it never occurs again”.

The post, shared by the senator’s campaign on his campaign’s Facebook page, said that a “commercial mouthwash can kill a common anti-tuberculosis drug.”

The website for the de Leon campaign said it had been deleted.

“Let me be very clear: Senator de Leon did not post that on Facebook. He never read it,” his spokesperson Al Borbely said.

“He doesn’t even know who posted it.”

‘Important message’

In a statement, GSK said it “reacted as quickly as we could, taking immediate action to have the tweet pulled”.

“While we don’t typically comment on active legal proceedings, we believe it is important to clarify that in the context of this very serious social issue, Mr de Leon’s irresponsible campaign message is offensive and has caused unnecessary distress to people whose lives have been impacted by TB,” the statement said.

In a press release issued by his office on Friday, Mr de Leon said he had been shocked when he saw the Facebook post.

“Here’s a key reason why I am running for the Senate, because I care about the people of California – those who struggle with addiction, that fight every day for a decent education for their children, and those who fight to put food on the table for their families,” he said.

Cipro was invented by SmithKline Beecham in 1887. It was originally designed to treat fever, then became available as a treatment for tuberculosis a year later.

Cipro is now the world’s most widely used antibiotic.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Actor Danny Glover has endorsed the call for GlaxoSmithKline to pull the advertisement

Actor Danny Glover, who is calling for GlaxoSmithKline to withdraw the advert, said it was a “measure of the state of desperation”.

The C-word

In October, another social media user who has backed the recall over the Cipro advertisement, added another weapon to her arsenal of viral Twitter campaigns: the C-word.

So if someone gives me a ‘C-word’, even if it’s a rude one, I have my own brand name to have fun with it and make them apologise. This time, they were tweeting @SKF__product, make amends! — Amy Cohen (@AmyCohenPhD) December 24, 2018

The lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline, filed by the Cipro Centre, is seeking $65m (£49m) in damages, AFP news agency reports.

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