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GSK fined in China bribery case

A court has fined British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline three billion yuan (£299 million) and sentenced its British former manager in China and others to prison for bribing doctors and hospitals to use its products, a state news agency reported.

The fine was the biggest ever imposed by a Chinese court, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The case, which was first publicised in mid-2013, highlighted the widespread use of payments to doctors and hospitals by sellers of drugs and medical equipment in a poorly funded health system that Chinese leaders have promised to improve.

Mark Reilly, former head of operations in China, and others were sentenced to two to four years by a court in the central city of Changsha, according to Xinhua.

It gave no details of the prosecution's case and did not say exactly how many people were sentenced.

But the police ministry said in May that Reilly was accused of operating a "massive bribery network". It said investigators believed Reilly ordered his salespeople beginning in January 2009 to pay doctors, hospital officials and health institutions to use GSK's products.

Authorities said that resulted in several billion yuan (hundreds of millions of pounds) in "illegal revenue" for the British drug producer.

Police previously identified four Chinese employees of GSK who they said confessed to bribery.

GSK announced in December 2013 that it would stop offering financial support to doctors and other healthcare professionals to promote its products.

Police said earlier that GSK employees funnelled as much as three billion yuan through travel agencies and consulting firms, which kicked back some of that money for use as bribes. Police have not made clear how much was paid out in bribes.

Investigators said the scheme appeared to be aimed at evading GSK's internal controls meant to prevent bribery.

GSK said previously it opposed bribery and was co-operating with the investigation.

A second foreign drugmaker, AstraZeneca, said in July 2013 that police in Shanghai were investigating one of its salespeople.

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