British drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been accused of bribing doctors to promote its products in Lodz, Poland. The allegations follow similar claims in China last year.
According to the BBC’s Panorama programme, 11 doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged with alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012. The allegations relate to claims that doctors were paid to promote the asthma drug Seretide.
A former sales rep for the company told the programme that they pay doctors to give prescriptions of particular drugs. They explained that sales reps couldn’t ask doctors for prescriptions; instead they offered £100 to talk to the patients about the drug but added the doctors understood an increase in prescriptions was expected.
Krzysztof Kopania, a spokesperson for the Lodz public prosecutor, said, “We have evidence that in more than a dozen cases it was a camouflaged form of a bribe.
“In return for the financial gains doctors would favour the product proposed by the pharmaceutical company and they prescribed that medicine.”
One doctor has admitted guilt but stated that the GSK rep continued to pressure him until he agreed.
In response to the accusations, GSK issued a statement saying, “Following receipt of allegations regarding conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company.
“The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined as a result.”
The firm added that the programme’s findings raise “core issues” around interaction and as a result it has made changes to its business model, including the way it pays sales reps, to combat this issue.
The statement said, “We agree there is a need to modernise interaction between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals to ensure patients’ interests are always put first and to eliminate even a perception of a conflict of interest.”
In July last year the firm was also accused of taking bribes in China, officials said that four GSK employees had “confessed” to charges of corruption dating back to 2007. The allegations impacted on sales with drug purchases in China falling 61% between July and September 2013.
Despite the allegations investors stood by the company, which remained a popular choice for ethical and responsible fund managers, and shares dropped by only 0.26%. Alliance Trust stated that it would continue to invest in the firm for as long as it was 100% committed to cleaning up its act.
Prime minister David Cameron also defended the company in the wake of the accusations. He said that it remained a “very decent and strong British business”.
Photo: Ian Wilson via Flickr