AstraZeneca to pay $5.5 million for bribing doctors in China and Russia

AstraZeneca agreed to pay $ 5.5 million to settle charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices, so which it is the last world drugmaker to face such charges as part of a long-term investigation by US authorities into companies that pay bribes in order to increase sales of their drugs.

In this case, the company was accused of making improper providers of health care in Russia and China payments, according to a cease and desist to published on Tuesday Securities and Exchange Commission US.

From 2005 to at least 2010, AstraZeneca failed to maintain sufficient internal accounting controls to keep track of interactions between its subsidiaries China and Russia, and government officials in those countries. Most of these officials were health care providers in state institutions and state-controlled, according to the SEC.

The feds charged that AstraZeneca sales and marketing staff, along with “multiple levels” of company managers in the subsidiaries, “designed and approved several schemes” to convey gifts, conference expenses, travel and money cash, among other things, to influence buying drugs from AstraZeneca.

On several occasions, the sales staff AstraZeneca sales of China presented – and administrators approved – receipts false tax returns for fraudulent refunds to generate cash that was used to bribe providers health care. Employees also established bank accounts in the names of some of the names of doctors as part of their scheme, the SEC alleged.

And employees at the Chinese subsidiary made cash payments to local officials to reduce or avoid fines that were levied against the subsidiary. Finally, the company falsely recorded all undue payments from its subsidiaries as legitimate business expenses in its consolidated financial statements in accordance with the SEC.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca wrote to us that the company is “pleased to have the resolution of these issues. The SEC has recognized our cooperation throughout the course of the investigation, and the United States Department of Justice has closed his research. … We started improving our compliance program before the start of the investigation. solid ethical and act with integrity are fundamental to the code of conduct of AstraZeneca, which is reinforced through training and ongoing supervision. “

As noted above, the SEC has been watching the pharmaceutical industry over the past several years amid concerns that drug makers are paying bribes to improperly influence medical practice abroad. The issue gained particular notice two years ago when the Chinese authorities GlaxoSmithKline fined about $ 500 million as a result of a corruption scandal.

Since then, several drug makers have reached agreements for allegedly violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices. Last March, Novartis agreed to pay $ 25 million to resolve charges making illegal payments to providers of health care in China.

SciClone Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $ 12.8 million to settle an investigation by the SEC into potential violations. Last year, Bristol-Myers Squibb paid $ 14 million for payment of bribes in China. In 2012, Eli Lilly agreed to pay more than $ 29 million to settle charges of bribing foreign government officials to win business in several countries. And in 2011, Johnson & Johnson paid $ 70 million for resolve violations of the FCPA.

Meanwhile, Glaxo has opened internal investigations in several countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen . And Novartis faces an investigation by the authorities of Turkey and some of its executives were recently accused in South Korea.

In the United States, concern about the extent to which pharmaceutical companies try to influence medical practice and research encouraged the Obama administration to create the OpenPayments database, which it is accessible to the public and lists payments made by pharmaceutical companies to physicians.

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