* Whistleblower tells newspaper Eli Lilly bribes
"widespread" in China
* U.S. drugmaker says taking allegations seriously
* Foreign pharmaceutical firms under scrutiny in China
SHANGHAI, Aug 22 U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co
said it was "deeply concerned" about allegations
published in a Chinese newspaper that it spent more than 30
million yuan ($4.90 million) to bribe doctors in China to
prescribe the firm's medicines instead of rival products.
A former senior manager for the company, identified by the
pseudonym Wang Wei, told the 21st Century Business Herald that
bribery and illegal payments at Eli Lilly's China operations
were widespread, the paper reported on Thursday.
Eli Lilly is the third foreign drugmaker to face
whistleblower accusations in the newspaper this month. The
reports coincide with multiple Chinese investigations into the
pharmaceutical sector, spanning alleged corruption to how drugs
"In order to hit sales at rival companies and push the
company's own products, bribes and special payments of all sorts
were extremely common at the company. The level of the problem
was just as bad as at GlaxoSmithKline," Wang was quoted as
The report said the 30 million yuan in bribes were handed
out over a period of around one year from 2011 to 2012.
Police have detained four Chinese executives at British
drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline over allegations it funnelled
up to 3 billion yuan ($489.92 million) to travel agencies to
facilitate bribes to doctors to boost the sale of its medicines.
GSK has said some of its senior Chinese executives appear to
have broken the law.
Eli Lilly said in an emailed statement to Reuters that it
was looking into the matter.
"Although we have not been able to verify these allegations,
we take them seriously, and we are continuing our
investigation," the statement said.
The U.S. firm said it had been made aware of "similar
allegations" of kickbacks in 2012 by a former sales manager. It
said the firm had opened an investigation at that time involving
staff interviews, e-mail monitoring and expense report audits.
Wang told the newspaper that company employees paid the
bribes to promote two of the company's key insulin products in
Shanghai and neighbouring Anhui province.
Further kickbacks in the form of paid talks, conferences and
other contributions were also made, he said.
Last week the 21st Century Business Herald quoted an unnamed
whistleblower as saying Novartis AG had paid bribes to
doctors to boost drug sales, prompting the Swiss company to
launch an internal investigation.
Health Ministry officials are also investigating Sanofi SA
over bribery allegations after the newspaper said
staff paid bribes totalling about 1.7 million yuan to more than
500 doctors in late 2007 to boost sales. The French company has
said it is taking the claims "very seriously".
Corruption in China's pharmaceutical industry is widespread,
fuelled in part by the low base salaries for doctors at the
country's 13,500 public hospitals.