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China probes allegations French pharmaceutical giant bribed doctors

Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

China has opened an investigation into allegations that staff at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi bribed more than 500 Chinese doctors in a bid to increase sales.

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China’s state news agency Xinhua said Beijing city health and corruption officials will look into the bribery claims dating back to 2007.

On Thursday, China’s 21st Century Business Herald newspaper, citing documents provided by an anonymous whistleblower, said Sanofi paid 503 doctors in 79 hospitals bribes totalling 1.7 million yuan, or around 280,000 euros.

It is alleged the doctors were paid around 10 to 13 euros every time a patient bought Sanofi products, with the largest payment being around 1,370 euros.

Most of the payments were made to medical staff in hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, the southern city of Guangzhou and the eastern city of Hangzhou, and were listed as "research expenses", the report claimed.

Sanofi said on Thursday it took the allegations “very seriously” and the company has a zero tolerance policy towards unethical practice.

The latest allegations come after four executives from British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) were arrested last month for alleged bribery and over-pricing.

The developments may have a wider impact on pharmaceutical companies operating in China. Other firms such as Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk, British-Swedish giant AstraZeneca and Belgium’s UCB SA have all reported visits from authorities to their China offices.

China's top economic planner is currently investigating 60 foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies over their prices.

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