China’s pharma scandal and the ethics of the global drug market

09 August 2014

China is in the midst of conducting a series of corruption investigations of pharmaceutical companies that have been operating in the country. It all started with the investigation of officials from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, who were reportedly engaged in “bribery and corruption” in China. The officials apparently used travel agencies to funnel illegal payments to doctors and government officials. That was in July. In August, Associated Press reported French drug company Sanofi was being investigated for bribing Chinese doctors in 2007. And late last week, South China Morning Post reported that German pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer had joined the ranks of companies being investigated by the Chinese. That report mentioned pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, H Lundbeck, AstraZeneca and UCB had also been contacted by Chinese investigators. This wide-ranging, ongoing scandal highlights the many regulatory and ethical challenges of globalised drug development