An investigation by Chinese authorities into the alleged bribery of doctors in China by employees of UK-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has stated that the alleged offences were co-ordinated at company level and not by individual employees.

In July, four senior GSK employees were held by Chinese authorities amid allegations that they funnelled up to CNY3bn (£315m) through travel agencies to enable bribes to doctors and officials to boost its medicine sales.

Now officials are stating they believe the bribes were co-ordinated at a top level rather than by GSK employees alone, reports the official Xinhua news agency.

However, GSK said this would be a ‘clear breach’ of its corporate values.

A GSK spokesperson said: "We remain deeply concerned by the allegations of fraudulent behaviour and ethical misconduct in our China business."

The company has previously admitted that some of its Chinese employees appear to have broken the law.

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By GlobalData
"We remain deeply concerned by the allegations of fraudulent behaviour and ethical misconduct in our China business."

According to Reuters, Xinhua quoted Huang Hong, general manager for GSK’s business operations in China and one of the detained executives, as saying the company had set goals for annual sales growth as high as 25%, which is seven to eight percentage points above the average growth rate for the industry, according to Huang.

Huang was also reported as saying that GSK put in place salary policies based on sales volumes with goals that could not be achieved without ‘dubious corporate behaviour’.

In China, it is customary for official media to receive access to detainees.

It is believed that corruption in China’s pharmaceutical industry is widespread, in part due to low base salaries for doctors at the country’s 13,500 public hospitals.

Image: GSK’s headquarters in the UK. Photo: courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton.