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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)'s recent drive to remove bribing Doctors facing setback as reports allege physicians were paid to prescribe medicines, follows similar claims in China, Iraq

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Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been accused of bribing doctors in Poland to prescribe its medicines, the latest if a string of corruption allegations to hit the company.

BBC current affairs program Panorama reported Monday that employees of GSK would give money to doctors for lectures that would never happen in a bid to boost certain products.

Jarek Wisniewski, a former GSK sales representative, told the BBC: “There is a simple equation: We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions.” He said. “We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.”

“It’s a bribe,” Wisnieswki added. The allegations follow previous corruption probes into the company’s actions in China and Iraq.

Although the payments were recorded as “educational services,” he said the doctors understood that meant they were to educate patients on why they should take GSK drugs and increase prescriptions.

A different representative confirmed to BBC that doctors were paid to increase prescriptions of certain medicines by selling patients on their benefits.

The statements will air on Monday night’s episode of “Panorama.”

Polish prosecutors said Monday that they have evidence to support the claims of corrupt payments in 13 different health centers.

GSK said in a statement on Monday it is cooperating with investigators and that one of its employees had been disciplined in 2011 for inappropriate actions.

One doctor in Poland who admitted guilt has been fined and received a suspended sentence, according to the BBC. He said he accepted around $167 for a single educational program that he never gave, but said he was under pressure from a GSK sales rep.

“They kept tempting, and I am just a man,” the doctor told “Panorama.”

A “Panorama” show to air Monday evening quotes a former sales representative for the company saying doctors there were paid to prescribe its drugs. A different representative said doctors were paid to give speeches and then expected to increase prescriptions.

“We continue to investigate these matters and are co-operating fully,” GSK said in a statement issued from its London headquarters.

The British drug company faces corruption probes in China and Iraq. It said in a statement it is cooperating with investigators and that one employee had been disciplined in 2011 for inappropriate actions.

In Poland, prosecutors said Monday they are investigating a case in which a foreign pharmaceutical company offered bribes to doctors in central Poland asking them to prescribe their medication. They said 13 doctors have been charged with accepting bribes.

“A GSK programme to assist in improving diagnostic standards and medical training, in order to benefit patient treatment and care with regard to respiratory disease, was run by doctors and other healthcare professionals in Poland,” GSK said in its statement. “The program ran from 2010 to 2012.

“Training on proper diagnostics for medical personnel and group meetings for patients were organised as part of this programme. These sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with GSK, received payments appropriate to the scope of work as well as their level of knowledge and experience. The provision of sessions under this programme was agreed with the Polish healthcare centres.

“Following receipt of allegations in 2011 regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company. The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined in 2011.

GSK has been badly hit by a high-profile bribery probes in both China and Iraq, where according to reports, authorities allege that employees paid for doctors and hospitals to prescribe its drugs. Those investigations currently are ongoing.

The company said earlier this month that it has promised to overhaul its worldwide sales and marketing practices. Last year, it said it would scrap individual sales targets and payments to doctors for attending conferences or promoting its products.

GSK said it believed the reforms would eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest.

“We agree there is a need to modernize interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals to ensure patients’ interests are always put first and to eliminate even a perception of a conflict of interest,” GSK said. “This is why we have made, and will continue to make, fundamental changes to our business such as opening up access to our clinical trial data, changing how we pay our sales representatives and stopping payments to healthcare professionals for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences.”

GSK operates its North American headquarters in RTP.

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