Sanofi joins list of Big Pharmas fielding bribery allegations

Now, it's Sanofi ($SNY) digging into potential bribery in the Middle East. The French drugmaker told U.S. officials that it's eyeing allegations from an anonymous whistleblower about improper payments from 2007 to 2012.

Sanofi isn't alone, of course. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) says it's looking into corruption allegations in a slate of smaller countries, including Poland, Syria and Jordan. Eli Lilly ($LLY), Pfizer ($PFE), Merck ($MRK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) have each disclosed investigations into potential bribery in a laundry list of markets. Then there's GSK's enormous fine in China, a £297 million mea culpa for spending hundreds of millions on bribing doctors.

In this case, Sanofi is said to have bribed doctors in Kenya and other East African countries to persuade them to prescribe its drugs. The alleged bribes involved gifts and other perks, Reuters reports.

"The investigation is still ongoing and is expected to take some time given that the allegations date back seven years," Sanofi said in a statement issued Monday evening in response to a Wall Street Journal report about the allegations. "At this stage, it is too early to draw conclusions."

Sanofi itself faced--and investigated--whistleblower allegations in China. A wave of accusations against Big Pharma companies emerged last summer as Glaxo's bribery charges proceeded. Chinese officials haven't taken any action against the company.

Meanwhile, U.S. and U.K. officials have said they're looking at Glaxo for potential violations of domestic anti-corruption statutes. In the U.S., that would be the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which the feds have been using more frequently over the past 5 years.

As for other embarrassing missteps for Big Pharma in overseas markets over the past several years, Lilly agreed to pay $29 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle allegations of improper payments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Pfizer and two of its subsidiaries inked separate settlements totaling more than $60 million. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) paid $70 million to settle similar allegations. And it's not just Big Pharma in the sights of U.S. investigators: The SEC pulled Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) into a probe of potential bribery in Latin America.

- read the Reuters news

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