Pfizer has been fined $60m by the US Securities and Exchange Commision for the bribery of foreign health officials and doctors in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as part of a crackdown on the illegal practice.
Israel-based generics company Teva Pharmaceutical has also come under scrutiny, announcing that it is the subject of a federal investigation into alleged bribery within Latin America.
Pfizer reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice after admitting to paying bribes totalling around $2m to generate $7m of sales between 1997 and 2006, however the company continued to allege that its headquarters was unaware of the ongoing practice.
Pfizer sales staff in Bulgaria were found to have invited government doctors to Greek holiday destinations in 2004, and payments were made to a bank account belonging to a Croatian doctor in 1997, who was found to hold influence over registration and reimbursement of medicines.
Pfizer also sealed an exclusive distribution agreement with a company in Kazakhstan for $500,000, with Pfizer believing most of the payment was to be given to a high-level government official.
Meanwhile, Teva confirmed that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the company will conduct its own internal investigation into the allegations.
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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits companies or their representatives to make payments to officials of foreign governments in order gain or retain business, and the SEC has subpoenaed Teva documents relating to potential infringements of the act.
The probe follows a number of investigations into alleged bribery by the SEC, with the commission targeting the payment of kickbacks to health officials in order to secure business interests. Pfizer joined Johnson & Johnson in facing fines relating to bribery investigations, while companies include Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have also faced investigations in recent months.