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18 more detained in GSK bribes scandal

At least 18 more people have been detained in China in connection with a corruption scandal involving British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, state media reported, giving more details on an investigation that has rocked the company.

China's state radio reported late on Friday on its website that police in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, had "recently held, in accordance with the law, 18 GlaxoSmithKline (China) employees and some medical personnel."

It provided no details of the detentions, nor said exactly when they took place.

Zhengzhou police news department said they were "unaware of the situation."

A GSK spokesman in London declined to comment.

Chinese police had previously announced the detention of four Chinese GSK executives in connection with allegations that GSK funneled 3 billion yuan (US$489 million) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

GSK has admitted that some Chinese executives appeared to have broken the law but Chief Executive Andrew Witty said on Wednesday that head office had no knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.

Prescribe more drugs

Xinhua news agency said certain GSK employees were "suspected of offering bribes to doctors, asking them to prescribe more drugs in order to grow sales, and in the meantime, push up drug prices."

Xinhua cited an interview with a man surnamed Li, who it said was a regional sales manager for GSK responsible for selling respiratory drugs to more than 10 hospitals in Zhengzhou. Li gave details of how the corruption worked.

"They invited doctors to conferences to help practitioners increase influence. They also established good personal relations with doctors by catering to their pleasures or offering money, in order to make them prescribe more drugs," Xinhua reported.

"A 35-year-old female medical representative surnamed Wang, working under Li, said she entered doctors' offices to act as their assistant, and meet their needs as much as possible, even their sexual desires," the report added.

"Wang said GSK China's executives knew this, and some executives gave clear directives to the sales department to offer bribes to doctors."

GSK this week appointed one of its top European executives as head of its operations in China.


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