GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is looking into allegations of bribery within its operations in Jordan and Lebanon – the latest in a series of investigations following reports of probes in China, Iraq and Poland.
The drug giant issued a statement Thursday reiterating it has “zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behavior” and says 48 employees were fired in 2013. The statement comes after reports that bribery probes are underway in two more countries.
The company said Wednesday that it started looking into the conduct of “a small number of individuals” in December in the two Middle Eastern countries. It says the investigation is ongoing.
On Monday the BBC reported that GSK is facing a bribery investigation in Poland, where a sales representative allegedly paid doctors to prescribe the company’s asthma drug Seretide. The company said it learned of the allegations in 2011 and found evidence of inappropriate communications by a single employee. It says that employee was reprimanded and disciplined.
“GSK can confirm we are investigating allegations regarding the activity of a small number of individuals in our operations in Jordan and Lebanon,” the company said in the statement.
“We started investigating using internal and external teams as soon as we became aware of these claims. These investigations have not yet concluded.
“We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behaviour. We expect our employees to uphold our high standards and we believe the vast majority do so. 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.
“We implement regular training for employees in compliance matters and we continue to improve compliance processes and procedures wherever we see a need.“We publicly disclose all cases of misconduct identified in the company. Last year there were 161 violations relating to breaches of our sales and marketing polices, resulting in 48 dismissals and 113 written warnings. These numbers are very similar to those reported by other companies in our sector.
“We are confident in our processes and controls and that we do not have a systemic issue with unethical behavior in GSK.
“However, we recognise there are concerns regarding interactions between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, particularly related to perceptions of conflicts of interest. That’s why we are the first company to have committed to undertake fundamental reforms to our business model to eliminate this concern by stopping payments to doctors to speak about our products, stopping payments to doctors to attend medical conferences and stopping pay for our sales reps being linked to individual sales targets.”
GSK operates its North American headquarters in RTP.
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