Eli Lilly has become the latest pharma company to be accused in the Chinese press of bribery and corruption.

The drugmaker says it is "deeply concerned" by the allegations made in Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald - attributed to a former sales employee - which claim it paid out 30 million yuan (around $4.9 million) in bribes to doctors to help boosts sales of diabetes products.

The latest claim follows prior articles in the same newspaper that accused Sanofi and Novartis of similar activities, and comes alongside an ongoing investigation into GlaxoSmithKline which is alleged to have paid $490 million in kickbacks to doctors and health officials.

Lilly launched an investigation into a similar set of allegations last year, but at present it is not clear whether the two cases are linked as the latest whistleblower used a pseudonym (Wang Wei) in the newspaper article. Lilly says it has never employed anyone in China of that name.

"At the time of the allegations were did an exhaustive investigation to search for any evidence of kickbacks," said Lilly in a statement, adding that this involved interviews with staff, monitoring of emails and an audit of expenses records.

That probe was in connection with a US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Lilly's affairs in a number of foreign markets, including China as well as Poland, Russia and Brazil.

Lilly was accused of breaching the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by illegally offering cash and other incentives in these countries to secure business, and eventually settled the case for $29.4 million last December.

The latest allegations centre on bounties paid by doctors in Shanghai and Anhui for prescribing Lilly's human insulin product Humulin and GLP-1 receptor agonist Byetta (exenatide), with the newspaper suggesting that the aim was to steal market share from rival products sold by Novo Nordisk.