GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) says it has found no evidence of bribery involving its business in China following a four-month investigation.

Earlier this week, the drug giant fired a scientist at its China R&D site after an internal investigation found that data in a research paper was misrepresented and should be retracted.

A whistle-blower had claimed that corruption and bribery had also occurred in China.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that an anonymous tipster made allegations that Glaxo’s sales staff in China was involved in widespread bribery of doctors to prescribe medication, in some cases for unauthorized uses, between 2004 and 2010.

“Glaxo takes all whistle-blowing complaints seriously and will investigate any allegation,” the London-based company said in a statement today. “Over the last four months, we have used significant resources to thoroughly investigate each and every claim from this single, anonymous source and have found no evidence of corruption or bribery in our China business.”

The report comes amid efforts to repair any damage to its reputation after GSK agreed last year to pay $3 billion to settle allegations that it illegally promoted prescription drugs and failed to report safety data in the U.S. Glaxo changed incentive compensation programs for U.S. sales representatives in 2011, eliminating the link between sales goals and bonuses.

In the research paper case, a second individual has submitted his resignation and three others have been placed on administrative leave, pending a final review, GSK reported earlier this week. 

The information from GSK’s China research center appeared in the article “Crucial role of interleukin-7 in T helper type 17 survival and expansion in autoimmune disease,” which was published in Nature Medicine in 2010. GSK said its internal inquiry was sparked after it it “recently became aware of allegations of misrepresentation of data” in the research paper written by scientists as its China research center.

“The integrity of our research is critical to our work and when these allegations came to light we immediately contacted the journal to tell them that we were taking the charges seriously and would be investigating thoroughly,” GSK said in a statement.

The data in question was from a published study regarding early stage, preclinical research. No patients were directly involved.
GSK said that it has shared its conclusion with Nature Medicine that certain information was misrepresented and the paper should be retracted. GSK said it has asked the authors to sign a statement acknowledging that data was misrepresented as part of Nature Medicine’s procedure for a retraction. In addition to firing one scientist, GSK said a second person has submitted his resignation and three others have been placed on administrative leave, pending a final review.

The pharmaceutical news blog Pharmalot, which reported the internal investigation last week, confirmed that the dismissed scientist is Jingwu Zang, one of the listed author’s of the research paper. GSK told Pharmalot that his responsibilities have been assigned to others at the R&D site.

[GSK ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of GSK stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]