British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) is facing another criminal investigation, this time in Poland. The news comes after previous reports of similar bribery allegations in Iraq. Last year, the company came under fire for corruption charges at its Chinese unit as, well. The resulting investigation into the Chinese bribery charges has resulted in significant sales losses in that country for the company.
According to a report from BBC News published Sunday, 11 doctors and one GSK regional manager are facing corruption charges for actions undertaken between 2010 and 2012 in Poland.
An ex-employee of the pharmaceutical giant says that doctors were paid bribes to recommend GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug, Seretide, over competing brands. The company said that it is cooperating with the investigation and that one employee has already been disciplined.
“Following receipt of allegations regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company. The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined as a result,” a GSK statement said, per BBC News.
The statement continued: “We continue to investigate these matters and are cooperating fully with the CBA [Poland’s Central Anticorruption Office].”
According to the former Glaxo employee, the bribes were undertaken under the pretense of an educational talk, recalling similar allegations in Iraq and China. “We cannot go to doctors and say to them, ‘I need 20 more prescriptions.’ So we prepare an agreement for them to give a talk to patients, we pay 100 pounds, but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug,” said Jarek Wisniewski to the BBC.
Wisniewski, who worked as a sales rep for the company for eight years, confirmed that while on paper the talks were written off as an “educational service,” doctors understood that they were expected to deliver a certain number of prescriptions in return, according to the BBC.
Krzystof Kopania, a spokesman for the public prosecutor in Lodz, where the investigation is being carried out, said that “we have evidence to claim that in more than a dozen cases it was a camouflaged form of a bribe,” according to The Telegraph.
GlaxoSmithKline, though, denies that the educational programs were a ruse, and said in a statement seen by the BBC that “these sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with GSK, received payments appropriate to the scope of their work as well as their level of knowledge and experience. The provision of sessions under this program was agreed with the Polish healthcare centers.”
If GSK is found guilty of the corruption charges, the company may be in violation of the U.K. Bribery Act and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to both pieces of legislation, it is illegal for companies based in either the U.K. or the U.S. to bribe government employees abroad.