Eli Lilly 'deeply concerned' by China bribery claims

Sign outside Eli Lilly office
Image caption Eli Lilly is the latest pharmaceutical company to be drawn into China bribery claims

US drugmaker Eli Lilly has said it is "deeply concerned" by claims that it bribed doctors to prescribe its drugs.

Chinese paper 21st Century Business Herald cited a former staff, identified by a pseudonym, as saying the firm paid out 30m yuan ($4.9m; £3.1m).

The claims come at a time when China is investigating some drugs firms over similar bribery allegations.

Lilly said it had launched an internal probe last year after a former manager made similar allegations against it.

"At the time of the allegations, we did an exhaustive investigation to search for any evidence of kickbacks," the firm said in a statement.

"Although we have not been able to verify these allegations, we take them seriously and we are continuing our investigation."

The company said it interviewed employees, monitored emails and audited expense reports as part of its internal probe.

However, it said it had not employed any sales managers by the name of Wang Wei, who was mentioned in the 21st Century Business Herald report.

Other probes

Eli Lilly is the latest foreign drugmaker to be engulfed by such claims in China.

Earlier this week, a British risk consultant, Peter Humphrey, was formally arrested by Chinese authorities amid a continuing probe into pharmaceutical firms.

One of the firms being probed, UK drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is reportedly a former client of Mr Humphrey's firm, ChinaWhys.

Chinese authorities have accused GSK of directing up to £320m through travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

GSK has said that some senior executives in its China office appeared to have broken the law and several GSK employees have also been detained over the last few weeks.

In July, Chinese police had visited the Shanghai office of UK firm AstraZeneca and took an employee in for questioning.

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