GlaxoSmithKline investigating Botox marketing practices in China

GlaxoSmithKline is investigating allegations that its sales staff used improper tactics to market Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) in China. Company spokesman Simon Steel said "we are investigating these new claims. However, our inquiries to date have found no evidence of bribery or corruption in relation to our sales and marketing of therapeutic Botox in China."

The Wall Street Journal, citing internal GlaxoSmithKline documents and emails, reported that sales staff discussed rewarding doctors for prescribing Botox with cash payments, educational credits and other incentives. The marketing strategy, named Vasily, allegedly targeted 48 doctors and was designed to reward them based on the number of prescriptions written for Botox.

"We have investigated the specific claim on the so-called Vasily programme," Steel said, adding that "our investigation has found that while the proposal didn’t contain anything untoward, the programme was never implemented." GlaxoSmithKline signed an agreement in 2005 to market Allergan's Botox in China for certain indications.

The latest allegations against GlaxoSmithKline reportedly come from the same anonymous source who claimed earlier this year that the company's sales staff in China were involved in widespread bribery of doctors to prescribe drugs, in some cases for unauthorised uses, between 2004 and 2010. Last month, the drugmaker said that it had concluded a probe into the allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Last week, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said it is investigating production costs and prices charged at 60 foreign and Chinese pharmaceutical companies, including drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Novartis' Sandoz unit, Boehringer Ingelheim, Baxter and Astellas. The NDRC will examine 27 companies regarding cost issues and 33 for pricing.

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