It is lucky Botox patients can't frown, because users in China might after learning that GlaxoSmithKline is investigating allegations that its staff used improper tactics to market the muscle-freezing wrinkle-buster in the country.
Britain's biggest drug maker said that it was investigating claims that staff had handed doctors cash and other rewards for prescribing Botox treatment – which the drug maker sells in the country under an agreement with the patent-holder, Allergan – but that so it had far found no evidence of bribery or corruption.
Internal Glaxo documents and emails seen by The Wall Street Journal show Glaxo's China sales staff apparently being instructed by local managers to use their personal email addresses to discuss marketing strategies related to Botox. In the personal emails, sales staff are said to have discussed rewarding doctors for prescribing Botox with cash payments and credits.
GSK is already under investigation by Chinese police for unspecified "economic crimes", although the company says it is "still unclear about the precise nature of this investigation".
Beijing is also investigating potential price-fixing among drug makers. A GSK spokesman said it believed the new allegations over Botox came from the same source who previously made claims over corruption in China – which Glaxo said it had found to be without foundation.