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Bribery ‘routine’ for pharma in China

Published on 13/08/13 at 06:55am
GSK China
GlaxoSmithKline China is alleged to have paid £320m in bribes

An investigation by the BBC has revealed that drugs sales representatives for foreign pharma companies have paid bribes in order to increase sales of their products in China.

In all, five drug reps admitted to the UK’s tax-funded broadcaster that the practice was ongoing and part of business in the region.

This comes as both Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are under investigation in China for allegedly paying millions of dollars’ worth of bribes to doctors, hospitals and pharma groups in the country.

One of the salesmen, all of which remain anonymous, said his company paid about $1,000 (£647) to ensure its drug was put back on the shelves at a certain hospital after it had been removed.

Calling this ‘an embarrassment’ for him and his company, he told the BBC: “If we follow the normal procedure to recover it, it is very complicated. It will cost a lot of money and energy. We looked for a quick way.”

He admitted that the money paid out to ensure the product returned to shelves was ‘probably a bribe’, adding that his manager signed it off.

“It may cost us more if we have not paid the bribe. It will be a lot of money and energy,” he said.

Another sales rep admitted to the BBC: “I don’t deny [giving money to doctors] happens in foreign companies,” although he added: “It is rare though and only very few people get it.”

Several senior pharma executives have recently told Pharmafile that both GSK and Sanofi have come under fire simply because they have not paid the right people enough bribes, and accept the practice is widespread in the country.

China's healthcare spending is expected to more than double by the end of this decade with its drug prices currently 30% - 40% higher than in the West.

This has led to many analysts saying that these new charges against pharma firms are intended to lower drug prices in the region.

And it may be working as GSK said last month it was considering lowering the cost of its products in China. Sanofi said over the weekend that it was ‘co-operating’ with China’s review into its business practices.

Ben Adams


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