Feature

GSK faces accusations of bribing doctors in Poland

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2768 (Published 14 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2768
  1. Shelley Jofre, BBC Panorama correspondent
  1. shelley.jofre{at}bbc.co.uk

The company may have broken US and UK laws on bribery, says Shelley Jofre

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently announced that by 2016 it will end direct payments to doctors for promotional talks and stop setting individual targets for its sales reps.1 The announcement by GSK, which last year made profits of £6.6bn (€7.9bn; $11.0bn), was broadly welcomed in an industry that has long been tarnished by accusations of corruption and aggressive marketing.

But just as Britain’s largest drug company attempts to rebuild its image, it has emerged that the company is now facing new allegations of bribery in Poland and Iraq.2 A BBC Panorama report, entitled “Who’s paying your doctor?,” has found that GSK is under investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors there.

It’s alleged that GSK sales reps in the region of Lodz, Poland’s third largest city, paid doctors as recently as 2012 to boost prescriptions of some of the company’s best known drugs.

A spokesman for the Lodz public prosecutor’s office, Krzysztof Kopania, told Panorama that one GSK regional manager and 11 doctors have been charged in connection with corruption allegations for offences committed in 2010-12.

One doctor has already admitted guilt, been fined, and given a suspended sentence. He told Panorama he took money but only under pressure from a GSK drug rep. The investigation is ongoing.

A former sales rep for GSK in Lodz, Jarek Wiśniewski, told Panorama that money from the company’s £1m annual marketing programme for GSK’s blockbuster asthma drug, fluticasone (which it markets as Seretide), was used to bribe doctors to boost sales of the drug.

“There is a simple equation,” Wiśniewski told Panorama. “We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions. We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.”

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The whistleblower explained that the bribes were disguised …

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