Roche's Xenical sales probed in U.K.

Could Big Pharma be held to account for gray market sales of its drugs? Take a look at what's happening in the U.K.: Its drug industry watchdog is investigating Roche over its sales of weight-loss med Xenical to private diet clinics. At issue, apparently, is a marketing relationship Roche had with the operator of one large chain of clinics; drugs sold to the clinics may have been resold under the table.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority--a mouthful of a name for the pharma industry's regulatory body--says it's opened a probe into "alleged inducement and supply of Xenical." The investigation comes on the heels of a) a lawsuit filed by an ex-Roche regulatory affairs chief and b) reporting in the Financial Times on some internal Roche documents filed as part of that ex-employee's legal complaint. Those documents outlined the relationship between Roche and Robin Huxley, the diet-chain operator who bought large amounts of Xenical over a two-year period.

Roche has denied wrongdoing, saying that it has conducted its own internal audits of its deals with Huxley.

- read the news in the Financial Times