UK-based drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is facing allegations of bribing doctors to promote its asthma drug Seretide in Poland’s Lodz region.
The issue, reported by BBC on its Panorama programme, adds problems for GSK, which is already facing a bribery probe in China and was investigating alleged corruption by employees at its pharmaceuticals division in Iraq.
Currently, prosecutors in Lodz are investigating whether the British pharmaceutical firm bribed doctors into promoting its asthma drug in the region.
According to GSK former sales representative Jarek Wisniewiski, who worked for eight years until 2012, money put aside to teach patients in Poland about the drug, actually was paid to doctors to prescribe more of the medicine.
The Lodz public prosecutor found evidence that the company had made payments to at least 12 health centres where no patient education had taken place.
Twelve doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012.
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The company said that a training programme to help improve diagnostic standards and medical training in respiratory disease was conducted by doctors in Poland from 2010 to 2012.
As part of the programme, training on appopriate diagnostics for medical personnel and group meetings for patients were organised and these sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with the company, received payments appropriate to the scope of work, as well as their level of knowledge and experience.
The provision of sessions under the GSK programme was agreed with the Polish healthcare centres.
After receipt of allegations regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company.
GSK said that the investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. As a result, the employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined.
The company said that it will continue to investigate these matters and will co-operate fully with Poland’s Central Anti-corruption Bureau (CBA).
In a statement, GSK said: "We agree there is a need to modernise interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals to ensure patients’ interests are always put first and to eliminate even a perception of a conflict of interest.
"This is why we have made, and will continue to make, fundamental changes to our business such as opening up access to our clinical trial data, changing how we pay our sales representatives and stopping payments to healthcare professionals for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences."
Image: GlaxoSmithKline headquarters in Brentford, London, UK. Photo: courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton.