Novartis employee pleaded guilty in Polish bribery case

ZURICH (Reuters) - An executive at a pharmaceutical company in Poland who pleaded guilty in a bribery case involving improper payment, works for Novartis , the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.

Poland's anti-corruption bureau said on Tuesday two women had appeared in court in a case in which a health fund official was given a tourist trip worth more than $1,000 (620.67 pounds) in exchange for backing the sale of a particular drug.

Both defendants pleaded guilty as part of a fast-track system that avoids a full trial. Sentencing has not yet been handed down.

The Basel-based Novartis confirmed that one of the two women was an employee who had been put on leave. It said the action taken by the Polish authorities did not involve the company.

"Novartis can confirm that an employee was recently interviewed by authorities in Poland in connection with an ongoing enquiry," the drugmaker said in an emailed statement.

"It should be noted that the enquiry relates to the individual and that the company is not a part of this enquiry," it said, adding it would be inappropriate to comment further out of respect for the privacy of those concerned and because it was a matter for the authorities.

The incident is the latest in a string of bribery cases that are embarrassing the pharmaceutical industry.

In a separate case from earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline faces a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors to promote its asthma drug Seretide.

French drugmaker Sanofi , meanwhile, said on Monday it had informed U.S. authorities of allegations of improper payments by its employees to healthcare professionals in East Africa and the Middle East.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Crispian Balmer)