Paris-headquartered Sanofi SA (EPA:SAN), the maker of the Ambien brand of insomnia treatment and numerous vaccines, has been accused of bribing 503 doctors and 79 hospitals in four Chinese cities to the tune of 1.69 million yuan, or $276,000. Beijing’s municipal authorities have launched an investigation.
The allegations come amid increased scrutiny of foreign multinationals doing business in China amid Beijing’s stated efforts to curb corruption and graft. Last month, the government accused British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) of similar bribery tactics. The company has since stated that some of its managers in China might have violated the law.
The Mandarin-language 21st Century Business Herald reported last week that an anonymous whistle-blower fingered the French company for bribing these doctors and hospitals with “clinical research grants” but allegedly in return for drumming up business for Sanofi products, the official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday. The alleged bribery took place in 2007. Investigators are looking into the details of these research grants to see if they’re legitimate or being used as a cover for kickbacks. The hospitals listed in the report are located in four cities: Beijing, Shangahi, Guangzhou and Hangzhou.
Sanofi has said it is taking the allegations “very seriously.”