GSK’s China drug sales continue falling in bribery scandal fallout

GlaxoSmithKline’s drug sales continued falling in China amid the fallout from a bribery scandal, but improved results in the U.S. and elsewhere allowed the company to post overall sales growth in the fourth quarter.

The world’s biggest drugmaker, with 5,000 employees in the Triangle, reported fourth-quarter sales of $11.2 billion, an increase of 5 percent over the same three-month period a year earlier. Net income was $4.1 billion, down about 1 percent.

GSK’s sales rose in every sales region but Europe, where pharmaceuticals and vaccines fell 2 percent, due to pricing pressures and generics. Sales increased 5 percent in the United States, Asia and emerging markets in the Pacific region.

In China, sales plummeted 29 percent, after a 61 percent drop in the third quarter. The company is still reeling from a Chinese government probe into allegations that GSK employees bribed doctors and hospitals to prescribe the company’s products.

GSK employs about 4,500 people at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park and about 500 at its manufacturing facility in Zebulon, where it makes or packages more than 20 medications, including commonly prescribed asthma treatments Advair and Flovent.

GSK shares closed Wednesday at $51.69, up 79 cents. The stock is up 14 percent over the past year.

Staff writer John Murawski