Sanofi notifies US authorities about alleged bribery in the Middle East, Africa

Sanofi said it has alerted the US Department of Justice and US Securities and Exchange Commission regarding claims from an anonymous source about bribery activity in the Middle East and Africa. "Sanofi takes these allegations seriously and does not condone wrongdoing by any of our employees," commented Dante Beccaria, the company's global compliance officer.

According to Sanofi, the allegations relate to improper payments made by employees to doctors in Kenya and other countries in East Africa to encourage prescriptions for the company's drugs from 2007 to 2012. The drugmaker indicated that it hired a law firm to investigate the claims. "The investigation is still ongoing and is expected to take some time given that the allegations date back seven years," Sanofi noted, adding "at this stage, it is too early to draw conclusions."

A number of pharmaceutical companies have faced similar bribery probes, with a Chinese court last month fining GlaxoSmithKline 297 million pounds ($477 million) after finding the company guilty of bribing non-government personnel in the country. The UK drugmaker is facing similar allegations in other markets, as well as probes from the UK's Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice. Meanwhile, Novartis' Alcon eye-care division is continuing to investigate claims of misconduct in China raised last year.

Commenting on the latest news, Helvea-Baader Bank analyst Odile Rundquist noted because the allegations are in smaller markets in Africa and the Middle East, rather than in China, the risk to Sanofi’s sales and earnings is smaller than for GlaxoSmithKline. "I would be not as negative as I would have been for Glaxo in China," Rundquist added.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: GlaxoSmithKline punished, but China's problems run deeper.

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