An investigator hired by GlaxoSmithKline to look into claims of bribery at the company's China operation has said that the allegations are “credible”.
Four senior executives at the company have been arrested by police in China. They are accused of bribing influential doctors with cash and expensive gifts so that they would use their products over those of other pharmaceutical firms.
The allegations, made in January last year, were contained in an email sent by an anonymous whistleblower to senior GSK executives. It included a claim that doctors had been sent on “conferences” which were actually all-expenses-paid holidays.
According to the BBC, which has seen the email's contents, it also alleged that the firm's aggressive marketing strategies "constitute bribery in the vast majority of cases”, that GSK falsified its records to conceal illegal practices and that the company fabricated an internal "compliance" scheme which effectively covered up widespread corruption.
In order to find out who was behind the email, Peter Humphrey was hired in April 2013 to conduct an investigation. It is understood that, in light of his findings, he has told colleagues that he believes the accusations to be true.
In a statement, GSK said: "We have many policies, procedures and controls in place to monitor this and take action against any breaches. As we have said previously, the allegations that have been raised are deeply concerning to us. We are learning lessons from this situation and we are determined to take all actions necessary as a result.
"Some fraudulent behaviour relating to expense claims was identified, and this resulted in employee dismissals and further changes to our monitoring procedures in China.”
It added, however, that the investigation did not uncover evidence to substantiate the specific allegations made in the email.
The company has acknowledged that individual employees at its China branch may have been involved in bribery, but it insists that they acted independently and not on the instructions of GSK.