(NaturalNews) Big Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline is investigating allegations of bribery involving some of its Middle Eastern employees even as the company continues to probe other allegations of corruption in China.
According to emails obtained by The Wall Street Journal, a person familiar with the pharma's operations in the Middle East contacted the British drug company late in 2013 and earlier this year to report what the person said were corrupt practices in Iraq, including other issues of alleged misconduct dating back from 2012 through last year. The paper said that the emails cited corrupt behavior that was similar to Glaxo's alleged transgressions in China, including reported bribing of physicians there.
The paper further reported:
Chinese authorities last summer accused Glaxo of bribing doctors and since have been investigating the company. China said last July that it had detained four of Glaxo's senior Chinese staff, but none has been charged. Glaxo says it appears that some its senior staff in China may have broken the law and that it is cooperating with the investigation. The company has cut some staff in China in connection with the inquiry, a person familiar with that matter said.
'Glaxo has been hiring government-employed Iraqi doctors as medical representatives'
The pharma giant says it takes all of the allegations serious and began investigation into the charges stemming from Iraq as soon as company officials became aware of them. They added that the investigations are ongoing.
The person who is familiar with Glaxo's Mideast operations said in an email to the company, "I believe GSK practices in Iraq violate the FCPA and the U.K. Bribery Act." The acronym FCPA stands for the U.S. "Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," which also addresses bribery of foreign officials by American firms or foreign corporations that trade securities in the U.S.
The person further stated in an email that Glaxo had hired 16 government-employed physicians and pharmacists in Iraq as paid sales reps for the company while they remained employed by the Iraqi government. One government-employed Iraqi emergency room physician has prescribed Glaxo products, though they were not in the hospital's pharmacy and a competitor's brand was available in stock, the person said in the email.
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Glaxo has been hiring government-employed Iraqi doctors as medical representatives and paying their expenses to attend international conferences, the person alleged in the emails. Glaxo pays other doctors high fees to give lectures in exchange for promoting and prescribing its drugs, the allegations continued.
After Glaxo won a contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 2012 to supply the company's Rotarix vaccine, Glaxo paid for a workshop in Lebanon for Iraqi Ministry of Health officials, the email said. That included paying for a doctor's family to travel to Lebanon "so it would be a family vacation for him at the hotel."
According to the emails to Glaxo, the person who sent them said they planned to share the information with the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.
Under a new whistleblower program at the SEC that was established in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, cash incentives are provided to employees who report verified instances of securities violations, and those include breaches of the FCPA. If the securities commission gets involved and finds violations of U.S. law following a whistleblower's complaint, the person who reported could gain as much as 30 percent of any monetary sanctions the SEC recovers.
GSK officials have disclosed in company filings with the SEC that the Department of Justice has been investigating the pharma giant since 2011 as part of an industry-wide bribery probe involving Big Pharma companies.
Glaxo says it is taking the email allegations seriously.
"Our collection and analysis of data continues and the scope of the investigation now covers several countries and business units" in the Gulf and Near East region, Glaxo's chief of compliance said in a March 13 email to the person.
The Glaxo region includes the nine countries of United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, WSJ reported.
According to the BBC, the company is also under investigation over allegations that it bribed 11 doctors in Poland. A GSK regional manager has also been charged in connection with the case.