U.K. Serious Fraud Office Probing Glaxo

By Maria ArmentalReuters

GlaxoSmithKline PLC (NYSE:GSK) is being investigated by the United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office for possible criminal violations in its commercial practices, the pharmaceutical company said Tuesday.

The Brentford, England, multinational said it had been notified of the criminal inquiry Tuesday and was cooperating with investigators.

Continue Reading Below

"GSK is committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards," the company said in a statement.

No additional information was released. A call to the company wasn't immediately returned.

The Serious Fraud Office is an independent government department under the U.K. Attorney General that investigates alleged fraud, bribery and corruption.

Separately, the British drug maker is being investigated by authorities in China for allegedly bribing doctors, hospitals and government officials to sell more drugs in that country. Glaxo has said it is cooperating with Chinese authorities.

Glaxo has overhauled its operations in China, in July naming a new head of its China operations, Herve Gisserot, to succeed U.K. national Mark Reilly, whom Chinese officials have accused of ordering subordinates to bribe hospital doctors, health-care organizations and other employees to boost the company's drug sales.

In December, Glaxo announced a global policy to stop paying doctors to attend medical meetings or to speak about its drugs and the diseases treated by its medicines.

Outside of China, Glaxo has opened an investigation into its practices in the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that Glaxo had received emails alleging its employees had bribed doctors in Iraq. Glaxo said it is also investigating alleged bribery of doctors in Jordan and Lebanon. Separately, Polish authorities have said they are investigating alleged bribery of doctors by Glaxo representatives.

Glaxo has said it has zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behavior and has strict controls in place with regard to compliance matters and antibribery and corruption.