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Eleven companies accused in Romanian corruption probe

Published on 03/08/15 at 10:35am
Roche building
Roche says it is participating fully in the investigation

GSK and Roche are among eleven pharma firms being investigated for paying bribes to doctors in Romania to prescribe drugs.

The Romanian National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) is looking into ‘suspicions of corruption offences’ in the country, involving major pharma companies. The probe involves payments made to doctors since 2012 to prescribe branded and generic cancer meds, according to Reuters. 

The Swiss firm Roche has admitted to being part of the investigation. It told Reuters that DNA investigators had visited company offices in the country, and that it was participating fully with its enquiries.

GSK has also been embroiled in the Romanian corruption allegations, after a whistleblower emailed senior managers at the British firm to expose claims of bribery.

The whistleblower claims that GSK representatives had between 2009 and 2012 paid Romanian doctors to prescribe its drugs, including prostate drugs Avodart (dutasteride) and Duodart (dutasteride/tamsulosin hydrochloride) and Parkinson's disease treatment Requip (ropinirole hydrochloride).

The email also alleges GSK paid doctors for speeches they didn't make, arranged for multiple international trips and paid them for taking part in advisory boards that were not legitimate. The alleged bribes pre-date 2013, when chief executive Andrew Witty pledged to end doctor payments to rid the company of persistent allegations of corruption.

In 2014 GSK resolved a bribery scandal in China by paying a $490 million fine. A private investigator working on behalf the company was also handed a two and a half-year prison sentence for illegally obtaining Chinese citizens’ data and selling it to China-based multinational firms, including GSK China.

In a statement GSK denied any wrongdoing, saying: "We do receive letters of this sort from time to time. We welcome and support the opportunity for people to speak up if they have any concerns. Sometimes we do find things and we act on it; sometimes our findings do not substantiate the matters being raised."

GSK is still facing corruption accusations in Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria. The whistleblower in the Romanian probe is planning to pass the information about all the accused firms to the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission – which is already probing GSK for possible corruption, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile In the UK, NHS England is investigating an undercover sting into pharma company payments to NHS doctors made in the Daily Telegraph. Reporters recorded doctors and commissioners offering to work as consultants for a fictitious pharma company. The video shows a GP and a senior pharmacist allegedly offering to arrange advisory boards with prescribing decision-makers for £15,000, or to host the meetings in luxurious German spa resorts.

NHS England has referred the matter to its fraud investigation arm, NHS protect. A spokesman for NHS England says: “These are extremely serious allegations so we have immediately directed NHS Protect to launch a full investigation of each and every case identified by this press report.”

“The NHS fraud protection body has launched an urgent investigation and we expect each Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group involved to launch a full inquiry. If these allegations are true, this is completely outrageous and amounts to an abuse of the trust that patients place in NHS staff.”

Lilian Anekwe

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