Merck “No Longer Using” Chinese Travel Agency Being Audited In GSK’s Chinese Bribery Probes


Certainly, at least a part of this is the “sharp end of the political spear” — in China’s accelerating effort to reduce drug prices inside its borders — at least as charged by multinational pharmaceutical dragon boats. But some of it is likely substantive, as well.

Reuters is reporting this morning that Merck has severed ties with a Chinese travel agency that is at the center — or very near it — in Glaxo’s unfolding bribery scandal in China. A GSK official has now said that it appears GSK executives violated local Chinese law, in arranging “off-books” pools of funding, for plying local prescribers (all allegedly, to this point).

Merck, for its part, is quoted in the same article as having ended its relationship in China with the same travel agency. AstraZeneca has said much the same.

And so, now we wait, in the hope that the other shoe deosn’t drop, on either AZ or MSD China, here. From Reuters — do go read it all:

. . . .Last week, Chinese authorities also visited the Shanghai office of Belgian drugmaker UCB and the latest visit to AstraZeneca shows Chinese authorities are spreading their net.

AstraZeneca said it believed the case involving its employee was a local police matter. . . .

Merck also said it had used the agency in the past and would no longer do so. The other drug companies could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters. . . .

More — as this one develops, but I do think that Whitehouse Station has, on balance, a stronger global FCPA compliance program than GSK does. I could recite chapter and verse, on GSK’s problems in this area, of recent note — but what’s the point?

Hopefully, MSD China was not following along the same path as GSK, in trying to encourage local doctors to prescribe its life-saving drugs. But we shall see, in time.

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