Exclusive: Allegations of GSK corruption spread to Syria

Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:26pm EDT
 
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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: Quote) faces new allegations of corruption, this time in Syria, where the drugmaker and its distributor have been accused of paying bribes to secure business, according to a whistleblower's email reviewed by Reuters.

Britain's biggest drugmaker said on Thursday it was investigating the latest claims dating back to 2010, which were laid out in the email received by the company on July 18.

The allegations relate to its former consumer healthcare operations in Syria, which were closed down in 2012 due to the worsening civil war in the country.

“We have zero tolerance for any kind of unethical behavior. We will thoroughly investigate all the claims made in this email," GSK said in a statement.

GSK has been rocked by corruption allegations since last July, when Chinese authorities accused it of funneling up to 3 billion yuan ($480 million) to doctors and officials to encourage them to use its medicines. The former British boss of the drugmaker's China business was accused in May of being behind those bribes.

Since then, smaller-scale bribery claims have surfaced in other countries and GSK is now investigating possible staff misconduct in Poland, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

Syria is the sixth country to be added to the list. The allegations there center on the company's consumer business, including its popular painkiller Panadol and oral care products.

Although rules governing the promotion of non-prescription products are not as strict as for prescription medicines, the email from a person familiar with GSK's Syrian operations said alleged bribes in the form of cash, speakers’ fees, trips and free samples were in breach of corruption laws.   Continued...

 
A no entry sign is pictured outside the GlaxoSmithKline building in Hounslow, west London June 18, 2013.   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor