GlaxoSmithKline's great, terrible, wonderful, not-so-good year

GlaxoSmithKline has been having a year for the record book. And that's not entirely a good thing.

On the plus side, the pharma giant ($GSK) has been racking up a record slate of regulatory approvals, which will likely jump to 5 soon with an OK for Anoro Ellipta, its new LAMA/LABA combo. On the other hand, the pharma giant--which went further than any other Big Pharma company to clean up its act and vow to never, ever again do anything shady or unethical--has been snared in one of the most embarrassing bribery scandals on the planet as Chinese officials continue to shame GSK for spreading around cash in order to grease the wheels of its product sales engine in the country.

And that all happened after the company had already given its China operations a clean bill of health following an internal review.

Progress on the R&D front, though, has helped deliver a steady stream of upbeat news reports. GSK set out four years ago to change the way it develops drugs, creating dedicated teams whose fates are tied to the success of their programs. At J.P. Morgan last January pharma R&D chief Patrick Vallance was touting a lineup of new applications that emerged from that reorganization.

There's plenty to be happy about, insists the pharma giant.

"The morale across a lot of GSK is very strong, because we've had a very exciting period of pharmaceutical innovation," Chief Strategy Officer David Redfern told Bloomberg, which featured the company's odd series of ups and downs this year. "We're pretty proud of what we've achieved."

But the progress has been clouded by some of the limited appeal most of these second-line drugs will have as they compete with rivals. But the same week it forged ahead on COPD, the FDA also pointed the way to much cheaper generics of Advair. And a setback with the cancer drug MAGE-A3 a few days ago underscored its trouble trying to create a new standard of care.   

A number of analysts, though, are more than ready to get happy, especially as the company has delivered on a higher share price this year.

"The upside vastly outweighs any short-term hiatus in China," Mark Clark, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, tells Bloomberg. "Clearly, revenues will be under pressure for a few quarters in China, but I'm not overly vexed about this."

- here's the article from Bloomberg

Special Report: The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013 - Patrick Vallance