Allegations that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) systematically bribed doctors in China are credible, says an investigator hired by the firm.
Peter Humphrey was hired only to investigate who was behind a suspected smear campaign against GSK.
But after he finished his report, he learned the details of further allegations against the firm and told colleagues he believed they were true.
The allegations against GSK’s China operation first emerged in an email in January 2013 from an anonymous and self-styled whistleblower to the company.
It also alleges that some doctors were sent on all expenses-paid holidays masquerading as conferences. The payments were funneled as fictional expenses through a travel agent.
Since the case came to light, four senior GSK executives have been detained by Chinese police and the former head of GSK China, Mark Reilly, is also effectively detained. Mr Humphrey will stand trial later this year for illegally buying and selling private information.
The whistleblower’s email alleges that the firm’s aggressive marketing strategies “constitute bribery in the vast majority of cases”. It further alleges:
GSK falsified its records to conceal illegal practices including bribery and promoting the use of drugs for not yet approved purposes
The practice of giving cash to doctors to sell products was common
GSK fabricated an internal “compliance” scheme which effectively covered up widespread corruption
The firm failed to investigate its entire sales team
The email names specific doctors and hospitals and also quotes individual GSK executives and their private email accounts.