Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline plc is to be investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), it has emerged.
The UK-headquartered company, which has operations in Barnard Castle, County Durham, said it has been informed by the SFO that it has opened a formal criminal investigation into the Group’s commercial practices.
The firm has not commented on the probe, but issued a short statement to shareholders on the London Stock Exchange, saying: “GSK is committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards and will continue to cooperate fully with the SFO.”
GSK has been at the centre of a slew of allegations in recent months from investigators in China, Iraq and Poland, after company reps were alleged to have paid doctors and hospital officials to prescribe its products ahead of others.
An hour after the 7am stock exchange announcement the firm’s share price had fallen by 1.36% to 1,612.50p.
Earlier this month, Chinese police accused Mark Reilly, a senior executive, of pressing his sales team to bribe doctors, hospital officials and health institutions, allegedly resulting in “illegal revenue” of billions of yuan.
Reilly and two Chinese executives were also accused of bribing government officials in Beijing and Shanghai.
GSK whistleblower Jarek Wisniewiski told the BBC’s Panorama programme last month that reps had paid doctors to boost prescriptions in Poland.
Another former GSK drug rep, who did not want to be identified, said they paid doctors for lectures that never happened and this would result in a greater number of prescriptions.
Panorama reported that a criminal investigation was under way and that 11 doctors and one GSK regional manager had been charged in connection with corruption.
If the new allegations were successfully prosecuted, then GSK may have violated both the UK’s Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the programme said.
In both countries it is illegal for companies based there to bribe government employees abroad.
The SFO confirmed that its director had opened a criminal investigation into the commercial practices of GSK and its subsidiaries.
A spokeswoman said: “Whistleblowers are valuable sources of information to the SFO in its cases.
“We welcome approaches from anyone with inside information on all our cases including this one - we can be contacted through our secure and confidential reporting channel, which can be accessed via the SFO website.”