Recent news reports revealed that, for more than two years, a German court has been investigating allegations that SmithKline Beecham paid bribes to hospital doctors between 1997 and 1999. Up to 1,600 hospital doctors and hundreds of SmithKline Beecham employees are under suspicion in the case, which may involve bribes of up to £15,000. Many employees under suspicion left the company following the merger between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham in 2000.
A GSK spokesperson said the company is taking the investigation very seriously and has launched its own internal inquiry in response. "We are committed to ensuring all our business practices are of the highest standard," he said. "Appropriate disciplinary action will be immediately implemented if any of the allegations are proven."
News of the investigation came just as GSK announced the retirement of its chairman, Sir Richard Sykes, who will leave the company on 20 May. Said Sykes, "Having overseen the successful merger of GlaxoSmithKline and as I approach my 60th birthday in August, I feel now is the time to depart. I wish to devote my time and energy to my role as rector of Imperial College and leave GSK in great shape for the future."Sykes was appointed deputy chairman and CEO of Glaxo in March 1993 and led the acquisition of Wellcome in 1995. Sir Christopher Hogg, currently a non-executive director, will replace him as chairman. Dr. J.P. Garnier, GSK CEO, praised Sikes as "a strong and committed ambassador for the pharmaceutical industry and a great champion of the UK science base."