The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has reportedly launched an investigation into a lawsuit that alleges AstraZeneca bribed terrorists in order to win contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

The DOJ probe is set to assess the claims made in a litigation filed in October last year against companies AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Roche, Johnson & Johnson and General Electric.

The complaint was lodged in the District of Columbia federal court by US nationals who were wounded or the kin of those killed in Iraq between 2005 and 2009.

In its SEC filing last month, AstraZeneca confirmed that it will cooperate with the anti-corruption DOJ probe.

A statement of the company read: “AstraZeneca has received an inquiry from the US Department of Justice in connection with an anti-corruption investigation relating to activities in Iraq, including interactions with the Iraqi government and certain of the same matters alleged in the lawsuit.”

An AstraZeneca spokesperson told Fierce Pharma that the company has a ‘robust and dynamic compliance programme, and we refuse to tolerate bribery or any other form of corruption’.

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“AstraZeneca has received an inquiry from the US Department of Justice in connection with an anti-corruption investigation relating to activities in Iraq.”

The lawsuit claims that terrorists controlled the Iraqi Ministry of Health and pharmaceutical companies successfully gained contracts from the ministry by bribing these terrorists.

This financing is said to have directly supported an Iran-backed, Hezbollah-trained militia responsible for killing or wounding numerous US citizens.

The contracts and associated transactions date back to Saddam Hussein’s regime (1979-2003).

According to media sources, the accused companies said that the then US Government encouraged business with the Iraq.

The defendants stated: “The US expressly encouraged companies to sell and to donate to the ministry millions of dollars’ worth of medicines and medical supplies.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the companies under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.