Romania launches bribery probe into 11 drugmakers

Romanian authorities are investigating 11 drug companies for suspected bribery in the country, echoing an investigation launched in China two years ago that targeted drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) for alleged wrongdoing.

Officials from Romania's National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) is looking into "suspicions of corruption offenses," or payments made to docs since 2012 to prescribe branded and generic cancer meds, the agency told Reuters in an email. The DNA is not spelling out exactly which drugmakers are implicated in the investigation, but at least one drugmaker has already stepped forward and admitted to being part of the investigation. Roche ($RHHBY) said the DNA stopped by its offices and that it was cooperating fully with authorities, a company spokesman told Reuters. The Swiss drugmaker also said its Romanian general manager and finance head left the company earlier this year, but declined to give further details to the news service.

The Romanian investigation mirrors one initiated in China two years ago. In 2013, Chinese authorities accused GlaxoSmithKline of bribing docs and hospital officials. That case was set off after a whistleblower raised allegations, drawing in other companies such as Sanofi ($SNY). GSK ended up paying a $489 million fine and a top company exec was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence as part of the ruling. Sanofi also investigated whistleblower claims in the country but Chinese officials haven't taken any action against the company.

Since then, more bribery allegations have cropped up against GSK in countries such as Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria. Earlier this week, another claim surfaced in Romania after a whistleblower sent an email to the company's top management, alleging that GSK paid doctors hundreds and thousands of euros between 2009 and 2012 for prescribing its prostate drugs and Parkinson's meds. Reuters said those accusations appear to be separate from the probe by DNA.

GSK CEO Andrew Witty

But the company is eager to clean up its tarnished image and make good with regulators, with CEO Andrew Witty promising to end payments to physicians by 2016 through a series of reforms. While GSK's payments to docs did drop off a bit last year, the company still shelled out $15 million to U.S. physicians promoting its products.

- read the Reuters story

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