Nearly every major pharmaceutical company is now facing criminal charges for breaking the law somewhere in the world, with Eli Lilly and Co.’s alleged bribery escapades in China currently capturing top headlines globally. According to Reuters, the U.S.-based drug firm is being accused of engaging in a massive kickback scheme spanning multiple years, which involved the company funneling millions of dollars to doctors as a form of bribery to get them to prescribe more Eli Lilly drugs to their patients.
A former company insider recently spilled the beans about Eli Lilly’s alleged crimes to Chinese reporters, divulging under whistleblower protection that the company had spent more than 30 million yuan, or about $5 million, bribing doctors to increase drug sales between 2011 and 2012. Eli Lilly had also allegedly pushed its diabetic treatments on Chinese doctors, encouraging them to give talks to other doctors about the supposed benefits of these and other drugs.
“In order to hit sales at rival companies and push the company’s own products, bribes and special payments of all sorts were extremely common at the company,” explained a former Eli Lilly senior manager, who now identifies himself by the pseudonym, “Wang Wei,” to the media recently in anonymity. “The level of the problem was just as bad as at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).”
Wei refers, of course, to recent admissions by U.K.-based GSK that the company doled out nearly half a billion dollars in cash and sexual favors to promote its own drugs throughout China. As we reported recently, several GSK executives working in China were recently indicted for not only bribing doctors to raise drug prices in violation of Chinese law, but also pushing them to prescribe drugs to patients who did not need treatment.
Eli Lilly official claims company is ‘deeply concerned’ about alleged fraud, despite extensive history of fraud
As far as its own alleged wrongdoings are concerned, an Eli Lilly spokesman recently expressed typical faux concern about the company’s alleged crimes in China, telling the media that Eli Lilly is “deeply concerned” about the issue. Just like GSK, Eli Lilly has even launched its own internal “investigation” into the matter, implying that it had absolutely no involvement whatsoever as a company in whatever may have taken place in China.
But most of us know that this type of shady activity is how drug companies actually operate behind the scenes. Eli Lilly, GSK, Novartis AG, Sanofi SA, Merck & Co. and many others have all been pinned in recent years for their alleged involvement in bribery scandals, and the script is always the same — these multi-billion dollar enterprises funnel millions into illegal marketing, bribery and other criminal efforts and at most get fined a small percentage of what they raked in from such crimes if caught.
This has definitely been the case for Eli Lilly on at least one prior occasion; back in December, the company paid out a $29 million settlement in the U.S. for accusations that it made illegal payments to foreign governments to promote its drugs. For a company that claims to be concerned about fraud, it sure did a piss-poor job of ensuring that both domestic and foreign laws were followed between the years of 1994 and 2009, which is when the company was accused of having committed these crimes.
Speaking in regards to GSK’s crimes in China, Gao Feng, head of the economic crimes investigation division of China’s Public Security Ministry, recently told reporters that GSK’s marketing strategies in his country included “many things that allow and even encourage bribery activities.” By the looks of it, a similar marketing strategy appears to be in place at Eli Lilly as well.
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