Novartis eye care unit Alcon accused of bribery in China

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG says its eye care unit, Alcon, is accused of bribing doctors in more than 200 hospitals in China. The company says it is investigating the allegation.

The bribes were allegedly part of a campaign to promote Alcon’s lens implants.

This is the second allegation against Novartis of corruption in China this year. In August the company was accused of bribing doctors to promote its medications.

Both this month’s and last month’s allegations were made by the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald.

21st Century Business Herald claimed that Alcon’s Chinese staff paid doctors “research fees” for fictitious clinical trials through a third party.

Novartis said in a public statement:

“Alcon does not tolerate activities that are not in compliance with the laws and regulations in the markets where we operate. When any inappropriate activities are identified, we take swift remedial action.”

Several claims of bribery against different drugmakers

The same newspaper claimed in August that Eli Lilly, based in Indianapolis, USA, bribed doctors. It quoted an ex-employee who said (under a pseudonym) that $4.9 million (CN¥30 million) were paid in bribes to encourage doctors to prescribe Lilly medications.

Eli Lilly carried out an internal investigation which is ongoing. So far, the company has not been able to confirm or deny the accusation.

In August, 21st Century Business Herald accused French pharmaceutical multinational Sanofi of bribing doctors at 79 hospitals in Hangzhou, Gangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. The bribes were allegedly passed off as “research grants” and occurred in 2007.

In July, British giant GlaxoSmithKline was accused of bribing hospital doctors and officials in a price-fixing move. Executives were detained.

Another British-based pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, said its employees were questioned by Chinese regulators.

Novo-Nordisk of Denmark said that Chinese officials entered its production facility in Tianjin city and asked detailed questions about its operations. The company was not told why it was visited and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

According to the Wall St. Journal, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce said in August that it would start a 3-month investigation into bribery in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in response to growing public anger at the high prices of health care products.

UpdateGlaxoSmithKline sales in China drop 61% during the 3rd quarter of 2013 following bribery scandal.