GlaxoSmithKline has dismissed about a hundred of its Chinese sales staff since the start of last year, underlining the difficulties facing western groups operating in the country.
Even more of the UK based pharmaceutical company’s 5,000 Chinese commercial employees also quit each year “voluntarily”, company officials say.
In 2012 alone, the company dismissed 312 staff globally including 56 in China, which accounts for about 3 per cent of its global sales.
The details of the sackings – some related to concerns over potential bribes offered to doctors as an incentive to prescribe GSK products – come as the company faces an intensifying probe by Chinese officials of high-level corruption.
Last week GSK, which has been scrambling to limit the damage to its reputation, said: “These allegations are shameful and we regret this has occurred.”
The company has sent Abbas Hussein, its head of emerging markets, to Shanghai to lead its response, alongside a senior legal executive and a top internal auditor.
The authorities have detained four of GSK’s most senior Chinese executives, while banning a top British manager – Steve Nechelput, its finance director for commercial operations – from leaving the country.
Mark Reilly, head of its commercial operations in the country, left Shanghai in early July and is set to remain in London.
GSK said that Peter Humphreys from the Hong Kong-based consultancy ChinaWhys, who has been detained by Shanghai police, had conducted work for the company in the past, as well as for other clients.
Multinational drug companies have expanded rapidly in China in recent years as the economy grows and their traditional western markets stagnate. They collectively now employ more sales reps in the country than in the US.
GSK last year agreed a record-breaking $3bn fine in the US for its aggressive marketing practices. In China, it has imposed new compliance codes and launched a series of internal audits in recent months. It recently faced accusations by a Chinese whistleblower that the company has said were unfounded.
Sir Andrew Witty, the chief executive since 2008, will make his first public remarks on the probe as he unveils second-quarter results on Wednesday.
中国商务运营总监马克?赖利(Mark Reilly) 7月初离开上海，并会一直留在伦敦。
2008年以来一直担任公司首席执行官的安伟杰爵士(Sir Andrew Witty)将会在本周三公布第二季度业绩时，首次就此次调查发表讲话。