Chinese authorities say GSK employees confess to bribery

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has for weeks been saying that it could find no evidence to confirm allegations that any of its employees in China were bribing doctors to buy its drugs. But Chinese authorities claim that not only do they have evidence of corruption, they have confessions from an undisclosed number of GSK employees.

According to Reuters, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website that GlaxoSmithKline employees admitted they gave bribes to Chinese government officials, medical associations and hospitals and doctors to increase both drug prices and sales. It also claimed they used fake receipts in ways that violated tax laws.

Glaxo told FiercePharma in a statement, "We take all allegations of bribery and corruption seriously. We continuously monitor our businesses to ensure they meet our strict compliance procedures--we have done this in China and found no evidence of bribery or corruption of doctors or government officials. We are willing to cooperate with the authorities in this inquiry. But this is the first official communication that has been published by the [Public Security Bureau] in relation to the specific nature of its investigation."

GSK has for weeks been waving off allegations being fed to The Wall Street Journal from a whistleblower that some of its employees were using a number of practices to get doctors to buy its drugs, in particular Botox. The company has said it has investigated the allegations and not found any evidence they are accurate. Whether these alleged methods are the same ones being investigated by Chinese authorities is unclear.

This week, The Wall Street Journal described a recent marketing plan, named after Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev, that targeted certain doctors. It said GSK employees were advised to use their personal email accounts to discuss the results of sales quotas for Botox. Glaxo markets the Allergan ($AGN) drug in China. The newspaper said it could not confirm that any doctors actually received payments, but documents it received from a whistleblower indicated they could get cash payments of $245 to $490 and other rewards. The newspaper earlier reported that between 2006 and 2010, GSK used speaking fees and other rewards to get doctors in China to prescribe its drugs.

GSK has been facing a firestorm of issues in China. Last month, the company also fired its head of R&D operations in China following a company probe into allegations that company investigators had "misrepresented" data on interleukin-7 research published in Nature Medicine.

- read the Reuters story

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