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Lilly is latest drugmaker drawn into China crisis

Local media reports link the pharma company to doctor bribery

Eli Lilly HQ

The twists and turns of China's investigation into alleged pharmaceutical corruption continue to play out in the media, with Eli Lilly now drawn into the picture. 

Local newspaper the 21st Century Business Herald claims to have found another whistleblower prepared to spill the beans on a pharmaceutical employer. 

This time, a former Lilly sales manager claims that the drug company paid almost $5m in bribes to doctors in a bid to wrest market share for its diabetes products Humulin (insulin) and Byetta (exenatide) from rival Novo Nordisk.

The articles states that some 9.5m yuan ($1.5m) was spent last year on meetings with doctors prescribing Humulin while 700,000 yuan was given to doctors in Shanghai in return for prescribing Lilly's products. One doctor was given 800 yuan apiece for three lectures on diabetes in 2011, it goes on.

Lilly said it was "deeply concerned" by the allegations, and added that it has already carried out an investigation after "similar claims" were made last year which included "employee interviews, email monitoring and expense report audits". 

"Although we have not been able to verify these allegations, we take them seriously and we are continuing our investigation," it said.

Earlier this week the Herald published claims by a whistleblower that Novartis paid kickbacks to try encourage sales of its Sandostatin LAR (octreotide) product used to treat some forms of gastrointestinal cancer.

The paper also cited an anonymous whistleblower in a report earlier this month that levelled similar accusations at Sanofi. Both the claims came in the wake of accusations that GlaxoSmithKline paid almost $500m on bribes to doctors and health officials to boost sales of its products.

Lilly reached a $29m settlement with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) last December over alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which claimed the company's subsidiaries had made improper payments to officials in Brazil, Russia, and Poland, as well as China.

In China, Lilly was accused of in falsifying expense reports in order to provide spa treatments, jewellery and cash payments to state-employed physicians between 1994 and 2009.

23rd August 2013

From: Regulatory

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