Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has dismissed claims from an internal whistleblower that it bribed Turkish officials to recommend its drugs to state run hospitals.
Also Friday, the Ankara chief prosecutor's office said it had launched an investigation into the Turkish unit of the Swiss drug maker. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office confirmed that Novartis was being investigated. Turkey's health ministry has opened a separate investigation into the allegations, Reuters reported.
Novartis said an internal investigation concluded the claims are “false allegations”. It said the company remains “committed to the highest standards of ethical business conduct and regulatory compliance”.
The internal findings were shared with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Turkish authorities, the company added.
“In 2013, we initiated an internal investigation which concluded in 2014 that the allegations were unsubstantiated. In 2014, the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Labour and Social Security conducted its own enquiry into the allegations,” Novartis said in a statement.
“Novartis co-operated fully with the Turkish authorities in that investigation, which concluded that all allegations were unsubstantiated and no action was taken by the Ministry.”
The whistleblower’s complaint was made public earlier this week when it was leaked to the media. The Reuters news agency broke the story on Wednesday. The whistleblower alleged that bribes were funneled through an outside consultancy firm, resulting in unfair business advantages worth $85 million.
The allegations were another blow to the company’s reputation following corruption investigations in the US and South Korea.
Whistleblowing has become a thorny subject in Switzerland following the revelations of various bank employees that have blown the lid off Swiss banking secrecy.
While pressure groups, such as Transparency International, have demanded greater protection for industrial whistleblowers, the Swiss parliament has been debating measures that could impose greater penalties on employees who bypass the authorities to go public with their concerns.
Whilst the proposed new laws would guarantee certain employment rights for people who play by the rules, opponents say the draft legislation lags far behind standards set by other countries, including the US.