GSK corruption investigation widens

Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has responded to allegations made by the BBC’s Panorama programme concerning improper conduct by GSK’s sales staff in Poland.

The programme alleged that GSK staff bribed doctors to prescribe asthma drug Seretide (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol), under the pretence of paying them to give educational talks about asthma to patients.

GSK says it became aware of allegations in 2011. A combined internal and external investigation found a single employee at fault, who has been disciplined by the company.

This is the latest in a series of high profile allegations of misconduct against GSK, most notably in China. The company has emphasised its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to unethical or illegal behaviour. ‘We publicly disclose all cases of misconduct identified in the company. Last year there were 161 violations relating to breaches of our sales and marketing polices, resulting in 48 dismissals and 113 written warnings. These numbers are very similar to those reported by other companies in our sector,’ the company said in a statement.

The company stressed that it does not believe the problem is systemic, and that the company is making efforts to eliminate possible conflicts of interest in its dealings with doctors. ‘We are the first company to have committed to stopping payments to doctors to speak about our products, stopping payments to doctors to attend medical conferences and stopping pay for our sales reps being linked to individual sales targets.’

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