GlaxoSmithKline's investigation into bribery and corruption among its employees has now extended into Lebanon and Jordan.
GSK confirmed yesterday that it was looking into the activity of a "small number of individuals" in these countries, just days after bribery allegations emerged in Poland. The company is also facing probes into its conduct in Iraq and China.
"We started investigating using internal and external teams as soon as we became aware of these claims," said GSK in a statement. "These investigations have not yet concluded."
As with the Poland incident the allegations have been made by a whistleblower who claims GSK sales staff tried to encourage doctors in Jordan and Lebanon to prescribe medicines - including GSK's pneumococcal vaccine Synflorix - by providing free samples that they could sell on at a $70-per-vial profit.
The whistleblower also said GSK allowed doctors to bring family members on paid business trips and in some instances swap business-class airline tickets for economy, with the doctor pocketing the difference, according to a Wall Street Journal report. It is further alleged that GSK staff paid certain doctors to attend lecture and presentations that may not have taken place.
"GSK welcomes and respects people speaking up where they have concerns and we have a number of channels internally to enable them to do this, including hotlines and online portals," said the company.
It also maintained that the number of violations of sales and marketing practices are publicly disclosed and in line with other companies in the pharma sector. Last year, GSK recorded 161 violations relating to breaches of our sales and marketing polices, resulting in 48 dismissals and 113 written warnings.
"We are confident in our processes and controls and that we do not have a systemic issue with unethical behaviour in GSK," said the firm, which is presumably worried the continuing newsflow in this area could prompt investigations by financial regulators in the US and UK, which have specific legislation banning the payment of inducements to foreign officials to obtain business.
GSK has already introduced sweeping changes to its sales and marketing policies in recent months, including removing sales targets for reps and shifting to in-house doctors and scientists rather than external speakers.