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Novartis' Alcon unit diverted trial money for bribes, claims paper

21st Century Business Herald publishes more allegations of corruption in China
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There have been yet more reports of pharma companies becoming embroiled in the corruption investigations in China, with Novartis' Alcon the latest name added to the list.

Allegations published in the 21st Century Business Herald yesterday suggest that money that was supposed to be spent on post-marketing clinical trials was in fact being used to bribe doctors in order to boost sales of the company's products.

As in previous reports concerning pharma companies - including Lilly, Sanofi and Novartis itself - the newspaper bases its claims on testimony from a whistleblower from the company, which specialises in eyecare products.

Under the pseudonym Zorro, the former employee claims Alcon used funds intended for "patient experience surveys" on lens implants  to bribe doctors at more than 200 hospitals across China, spending 1.4m yuan ($229,000) on the studies in 2012. One doctor received 45,000 yuan for recruiting 150 patients into the surveys, according to the newspaper report.

In a situation reminiscent of the allegations made against GlaxoSmithKline in July, Alcon is said to have funnelled the "research fees" to doctors via a third-party company. GSK has been accused of using a network of travel agents and other intermediaries to distribute cash to prescribers.

Alcon said it would be investigating the claims levelled in the article by Zorro, adding that the whistleblower had filed a claim for compensation with the company.

In a statement, the eyecare specialist said: "Alcon does not tolerate activities that are not in compliance with the laws and regulations in the markets where we operate," adding it could take "swift remedial action" if its personnel are found to be at fault.

The allegations of corruption come against a backdrop of a broader investigation by China into the prices of medicines sold on the domestic market by around 60 companies.

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th September 2013

From: Sales, Regulatory



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