GlaxoSmithKline appoints new China head in wake of bribery probe

A GlaxoSmithKline spokesman said Thursday that the company appointed Herve Gisserot as general manager in China, succeeding Mark Reilly. The spokesman noted that Reilly will "remain an active member of the senior executive team" and is leading the response to the Chinese government's bribery investigation. Gisserot most recently served as co-head of GlaxoSmithKline's pharmaceutical business in Europe.

Earlier this month, Chinese officials accused GlaxoSmithKline's China unit of using travel agencies to funnel bribes to officials and doctors. Although the company initially said that it found no evidence of wrongdoing, it ultimately acknowledged that some employees may have broken Chinese law. CEO Andrew Witty has since noted that the four accused executives acted outside of the drugmaker’s processes and controls.

According to sources, Reilly left China in early July after Chinese officials raided GlaxoSmithKline offices in the country. The executive, who is said to have left the country for a pre-planned business trip, has remained in London where he has been working at company headquarters. It is understood by the drugmaker that he has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the investigation. A GlaxoSmithKline spokesman did not disclose whether he will return to the country.

Separately, the drugmaker indicated that China has lifted travel restrictions they had placed on Steve Nechelput, GlaxoSmithKline's chief finance officer in the country. "We understand the travel restriction on Steve has been lifted. He continues in his role as finance director for GSK China. He will continue to be based in the country," a spokesman noted. Earlier this week, Witty said Chinese authorities haven’t alleged any wrongdoing by Nechelput and he hasn’t been charged in connection with the probe.

Since news of the investigation broke, GlaxoSmithKline has sent three executives, including president of emerging markets and Asia Pacific Abbas Hussain, to China.

For related analysis, see Spotlight On: China's hospital bidding process – where pharma's challenge in China begins and ends?

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