Thursday, April 17, 2014

The List gets longer and longer

GSK adds Jordan and Lebanon to bribery investigations list


GlaxoSmithKline has added Jordan and Lebanon to a growing list of countries where it is investigating allegations of bribery.

The British drug giant's latest admission marks the third and fourth bribery investigations it has disclosed in the last ten days.

It said it is investigating allegations "regarding the activity of a small number of individuals" in its operations in Jordan and Lebanon, where it employs a combined 140 staff.

"We started investigating using internal and external teams as soon as we became aware of the claims," said a company spokesman. “We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behaviour."

Around a week ago it emerged that GSK was investigating allegations of corruption against the company's Iraqi arm, where it employs around 60 people. The company was accused of hiring government-employed doctors and pharmacists as paid sales representatives to boost sales of its products.

The recent disclosures add to the pressures of a major bribery scandal in China, where in July authorities accused the company of paying as much as £320m in bribes to win market share.

The company has admitted that its own investigation into the allegations unearthed evidence of wrongdoing by a handful of sales staff, but maintains they worked outside GSK’s control systems. It has called the allegations “shameful” and said it is cooperating with the ongoing Chinese investigation. The scandal has hit sales of GSK products in China, where it makes around 3pc of global revenues.

Despite the numerous investigations, the company spokesman has maintained that GSK does not have a systemic issue with unethical behaviour.

He added that GSK last year received 161 complaints related to staff breaching its sales and marketing policies, and fired 48 of them. "These numbers are very similar to those reported by other companies in our sector," he said.

GSK last year became the first drug maker to end payments to doctors to promote its drugs and scrap individual sales targets for staff in an effort to tackle breaches of its code.

Despite GSK’s compliance problems in emerging economies, it continues to see these markets as crucial for the business. Last week it unveiled a $200m (£120m) investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We continue to believe that with robust compliance systems and, by working closely with local governments, our presence in these markets can help improve access to medicines and broader healthcare,” said the company spokesman.

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