Is this scandal limited to only Italian MD's ????
Over 4,000 doctors face charges in Italian drugs scandal
John Hooper in Rome and Heather Stewart
Thursday May 27, 2004
One of the biggest inquiries into marketing practices in the drugs industry ended yesterday with Italian police asking for almost 5,000 people to be put on trial, including more than 4,000 doctors and at least 273 employees of the British pharmaceuticals giant, GlaxoSmithKline. Some face up to five years in jail if tried and convicted.
Italy's revenue guard, the Guardia di Finanza, said in a statement that GlaxoSmith- Kline and its predecessor firm had spent €228m (£152m) on "sweeteners" for doctors, chemists and others over four years. The alleged bribes ranged from cameras, computers and holidays to outright cash payments.
The Guardia di Finanza said GlaxoSmithKline "should be held responsible for corporate crime as its managers and other employees acted in the company's interest".
A spokesman for GSK said last night it had been "cooperating closely with the authorities to facilitate their investi gations. GSK is committed to ensuring that all its business practices are of the highest standards and any breach of that is unacceptable", the spokesman added.
But a British-based pharmaceuticals analyst said yesterday the type of activity the Italian authorities allege to have uncovered is common practice among global drug companies.
"In parts of Europe, these things are absolutely rife," he said. "For example, doctors may be given 'research grants' - but there are no limits on how they can spend them." He cited cases in which doctors had been offered cars or holidays as inducements to prescribe a particular brand.
Italy's Adnkronos news agency reproduced what it said was a letter written by a GlaxoSmithKline district manager contained in the 10,000 pages of evidence assembled by the Guardia di Finanza.
The letter urged sales representatives to approach specialists directly to get them to prescribe a cancer drug produced by the company. "The initiative can work well with oncologists who have congresses, invest ments from us ... and who have not given us anything in return," the district manager was quoted as writing. Illicit incentives were said to have been disguised in the firm's accounts under the headings of "field selling", "other promotion" and "medical phase IV".
Of the 4,713 people from all parts of Italy facing charges, 4,440 are doctors. They include more than 2,500 GPs and some 1,700 specialists.
The most serious accusations have been levelled at doctors, pharmacists and sales representatives alleged to have been involved in a programme intended to promote Hycamtin, a drug mainly used in the treatment of lung and ovarian cancers. In some cases, it is claimed, specialists received a pro rata cash payment based on the number of patients treated with the drug.
At a press conference yesterday, a senior revenue guard officer, Giovanni Mainolfi, estimated the investigation was costing GlaxoSmithKline's Italian subsidiary €400m a year in lost sales.