GlaxoSmithKline’s alleged bribery of doctors in China was coordinated by the pharmaceutical giant itself rather than being initiated by individual employees, according to a report from Chinese state media.

Reuters cited China’s official Xinhua news agency as the source of the finding.

“It is becoming clear that it is organized by GSK China rather than … sales people’s individual behavior,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

In July, four senior Chinese executives were detained as part of a police investigation into allegations that GSK directed up to $490 million to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials, an effort to boost sales of GSK drugs.

The British drugmaker, which operates its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, said the issues identified in the Xinhua report would be a “clear breach of our corporate values.” A company spokesman added that GSK share the desire of the Chinese authorities to root out corruption.

“We remain deeply concerned by the allegations of fraudulent behavior and ethical misconduct in our China business,” the spokesman told Reuters.

GSK has said previously that some of its senior Chinese executives appear to have broken the law and the company has zero tolerance for bribery.

According to the Reuters story, Xinhua quoted Huang Hong, general manager for GSK’s business operations in China and one of the detained executives, as saying the company had set goals for annual sales growth as high as 25 percent. That rate was 7 to 8 percentage points above the average growth rate for the industry, Huang said.

GSK implemented salary policies based on sales volumes and such goals could not be achieved without “dubious corporate behavior,” Huang said.

Reuters said that Guo Jianhua, head of recruitment at GSK China, was quoted by the official People’s Daily newspaper as saying the company had turned a blind eye to illegal behavior.
“When the problems were exposed, the company pushed all responsibilities to individual employees,” Guo said.

It was unclear which problems Guo was referring to or if he was one of the detained executives. But Reuters said that corruption in China’s pharmaceutical industry is widespread, fueled in part by low base salaries for doctors at the country’s 13,500 public hospitals.