Eli Lilly became the latest western pharmaceutical group to be drawn into allegations of corruption in China, with media reports that it paid Rmb30 million ($4.9 million) in kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its products for diabetics.
The 21st Century Business Herald newspaper quoted a former Chinese sales manager for the US drug company as saying it had paid hospital doctors for each new patient placed on Humulin and Byetta, as it fought for market share.
The article, quoting a manager with the pseudonym Wang Wei, said Eli Lilly paid doctors to give talks to other prescribers about products.
The allegations come after a series of corruption claims in the pharmaceutical business and probes opened by the authorities against Novartis, Sanofi, Lundbeck and AstraZeneca. GlaxoSmithKline has been accused of making illegal payments of up to $500 million.
Eli Lilly said it was “deeply concerned about the allegations”. The group stressed it had not employed any senior manager in China named Wang Wei, but had been made aware of similar allegations from a former employee.
It said: “At the time of the allegations, we did an exhaustive investigation to search for any evidence of kickbacks.
“The investigation was very thorough and 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.” – The Financial Times Limited 2013