BEIJING, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Beijing municipal authorities have set up a joint investigation team to probe French drugmaker Sanofi after a Chinese newspaper published bribery allegations against the company.
An anonymous whistleblower told the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald on Thursday that Sanofi staff paid bribes totaling about 1.69 million yuan (274,048 U.S.) to 503 doctors at 79 hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou in late 2007 as "research grants."
The Beijing municipal health bureau will coordinate with the disciplinary authorities to investigate the case, a bureau official told Xinhua on Friday.
How to define the boundary between a "clinical research grant" and bribery is key to the case, medical experts said.
At present, the health bureau does not have much information in this area.
The investigation team will probe if clinical research programs had a list of patient names and medical reports, the official said.
Hospitals named in the media report, including Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, have yet to comment.
In response, Sanofi said in a statement that it took the claim "very seriously" and has begun relevant procedures to investigate the allegations, according to the newspaper.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission will step up its efforts to curb commercial bribery in the pharmaceutical industry and health service sector, commission spokesman Deng Haihua said at a press conference on Friday.
The commission plans to blacklist pharmaceutical companies and individuals involved in bribery, he said.
British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been under investigation for suspected bribery and tax-related offenses by Chinese authorities since early July.