Corruption watchdog visits Roche

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Reuters Shanghai and Zurich

Roche had been visited by a unit of China’s competition regulator, the Swiss drug maker said yesterday, a part of a widening crackdown on corruption and high prices in the country’s pharmaceutical sector. The reason for the visit was not immediately clear.

Roche said its offices in the eastern city of Hangzhou had been visited by a unit of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which usually takes the lead in bribery and corruption cases.

“We understand that a local government unit in Hangzhou visited Roche’s offices on May 21, but the specific details are not yet clear. We will co-operate fully with the work of the relevant government department,” the company said.

The British drugmaker has said it wanted “to reach a resolution that will enable the company to continue to make an important contribution to the health and welfare of China and its citizens”.

A spokeswoman for the local office of the SAIC said the visit was for a range of issues, but declined to elaborate. She said the office had yet to reach a conclusion on the issues.

Last week Chinese authorities charged executives at Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline over bribery and corruption, and legal and industry sources say the crackdown on the sector is likely to intensify.

“More and more firms have been visited by the SAIC in the wake of the GlaxoSmithKline case,” John Huang, a partner at law firm MWE China, said.

Last year Chinese authorities visited drug makers including Novartis, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Bayer as part of a broad investigation into the sector.

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