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China probes France’s Sanofi for bribery

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-11

French drugmaker Sanofi has been accused of dishing out almost $280,000 in bribes to Chinese doctors in 2007 in a bid to up its sales. Beijing corruption officials have opened a formal investigation.

French drugmaker Sanofi has been accused of dishing out almost $280,000 in bribes to Chinese doctors in 2007 in a bid to up its sales. Beijing corruption officials have opened a formal investigation, and Sanofi says it is taking the allegations very seriously.

The investigation, to be carried out by Beijing city health and corruption officials, was launched in response to claims by an unnamed whistleblower that the French company had paid 503 doctors a total of $274,000 to prescribe Sanofi products.

Sanofi said in a statement it was aware of the report but it said it was premature to comment on events that may have occurred in 2007.

However, it also stated that it took the allegations "very seriously", and as a company had zero tolerance for any unethical practices.

Payments to medical staff

The whilstleblower told the Guangzhou based, state owned, 21st Century Business Herald newspaper that in 2007 Sanofi paid doctors 80 yuan ($13) every time a patient bought its products, with the largest payment being 11,200 yuan.

Most of the payments were reportedly made to medical staff in hospitals in Beijing, the commercial hub of Shanghai, the southern city of Guangzhou and the eastern city of Hangzhou. The payments were disguised as grants for research programmes, the whilstleblower report claimed.

A spokesman told state news agency Xinhua that the Beijing municipal health bureau will coordinate with the disciplinary authorities to investigate the case.

The Sanofi allegations come after four executives from British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) were arrested last month for alleged bribery and other offences. Chinese police detained the GSK executives on charges that they had funnelled up to 3 billion yuan ($489 million) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

China's top economic planner is currently investigating 60 foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies operating in China on similar grounds.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-10

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