BEIJING - China is investigating at least four multinational drugmakers as it widens its probe of GlaxoSmithKline, according to a lawyer in Hong Kong whose firm advises companies on cross-border anti-corruption.
The investigations point to an increased targeting of the pharmaceutical industry in corruption probes as the world's most populous country faces rising health-care costs and seeks to lower drug prices.
"We are aware of four pharmaceutical companies who are facing" investigation by local anti-corruption units, said Ms Wendy Wysong, head of anti-corruption practice in Asia-Pacific at law firm Clifford Chance. She declined to identify the companies.
On Monday, Chinese officials said Glaxo used travel agencies as a conduit for bribes, that company executives received "sexual bribes", and that other drugmakers have transferred money to the agencies.
China, the world's fastest-growing market for medicines, has become an important target for the pharmaceutical industry as more and more best-selling therapies have gone off patent.
Glaxo's revenue from China increased 17 per cent last year to £759 million (S$1.4 billion), while product sales for AstraZeneca rose 20 per cent in China to US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion).
Pfizer and Merck, the two biggest US drugmakers, together employ about 14,000 people in China.