* U.S. citizen held amid widening China pharma probe
* Two more Chinese staff at AstraZeneca questioned
* 39 hospital staff to be punished for taking bribes-Xinhua
* Industry under scrutiny after bribery charges against GSK
* GSK reports second-quarter results at 1100 GMT
By Michael Martina
BEIJING, July 23 A U.S. citizen has been
detained in China in connection with probes sparked by an
unfolding corruption scandal in the drugs industry, as China
widens the range of international firms and staff under the
Police have also questioned two more Chinese employees from
British drugmaker AstraZeneca in Shanghai, after a local
sales representative was taken away for questioning earlier.
And China's Health Ministry said 39 hospital staff would be
punished for taking bribes from two drug companies. The firms
involved were not identified.
The unnamed American is the first U.S. citizen to be
detained in connection with the investigations, and the second
foreign national, after a British risk consultant linked with
GlaxoSmithKline was held last week.
GSK, Britain's biggest drugmaker, has been accused by China
of funnelling up to 3 billion yuan ($489 million) to travel
agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.
"We are aware that a U.S. citizen has been detained in
Shanghai. We are in contact with the individual and are
providing all appropriate consular assistance," U.S. embassy
spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said on Tuesday, when asked about the
involvement of U.S. citizens in the widening probe.
He declined to say which company the individual was
The latest moves by Chinese officials underline the
country's tough stance on corruption and high prices in the
pharmaceutical industry, as it unrolls wider healthcare access
and faces an estimated $1 trillion healthcare bill by 2020.
"Momentum is gathering and if you are a big international
firm, then you're a good example to be held up. This is a
wake-up call for the rest of the industry," said Jeremy Gordon,
director of China Business Services, a risk management company
focusing on China.
GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty will detail what action the
drugmaker is taking in response to the bribery allegations when
he presents quarterly results on Wednesday, sources familiar
with the matter have said. The results are due at 1100 GMT.
The company has called the bribery accusations "shameful"
and on Monday said some of its Chinese executives appeared to
have broken the law.
AstraZeneca said the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had
asked on Tuesday to speak with two line managers linked to the
sales representative questioned earlier.
"The Public Security Bureau is describing this as an
individual case. We have no reason to believe it is related to
other investigations," the company said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Chinese doctors and officials who are taking
bribes are feeling the wrath of the authorities.
The official Xinhua news agency, citing a statement from the
Health Ministry on Tuesday, said 39 employees at a hospital in
southern Guangdong Province would be punished for taking illegal
kickbacks, totalling 2.82 million yuan ($460,367), from two
drugmakers between January 2010 and December 2012.
"The vice chairman of the hospital's trade union and two
people in charge of the two pharmaceutical companies involved
have had their cases transferred to judicial organs, while nine
doctors who directly received kickbacks were dismissed,
suspended or had their licences revoked," the report said.
Shanghai police detained British man Peter Humphrey earlier
this month. Humphrey runs an international business risk
advisory firm, ChinaWhys, that has worked with drug companies,
including GSK, two people familiar with the situation said at
Chinese police have detained four Chinese executives from
GSK and the company's head of finance for China has also been
prevented from leaving China since the end of June.
Authorities have also visited the offices of Belgian