The Ontario government sentenced Costco to a fine of more than $ 7 million following an investigation into allegations that the bulk food giant has allegedly bribed a manufacturer generic drugs.

The fifth state announced for the first time last March that the province's judicial inquiry had opened the investigation.

Ministry of Health of Ontario issued a statement Friday announcing the fine.

"Following an inspection, the Ministry determined that [Costco pharmacies] had received $ 7,250,748.00 for advertising services that, concluded the department, contravened the ban on discounts, "the statement said.

"The department takes very seriously the non-compliance with the ban on discounts and will continue to assess compliance with the ban by manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies."

In Ontario, it is illegal for a pharmacy to accept discounts or bribes from a generic drug manufacturer in return for the promise of storing its brand of drugs. Studies show that discounts drive up the price of generic drugs for consumers.

Audio cassettes recorded secretly obtained by The fifth state showed a Costco senior pharmacy executive demanding bribes.

"At a minimum, I would like to see about $ 3.6 million of support.This is a minimum," one can hear from the executive.

A representative of generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals first made allegations against Costco in 2015.

"I feel justified, I'm happy but it's not enough," said Tony Gagliese.

Tony Gagliese was a salesman at Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals. He denounced Costco by filing a complaint with the College of Pharmacists of Ontario. (CBC)

According to the Ministry, the fine imposed is equal to the amount of the payments made to Costco. Gagliese says the province should have gone back down to Costco.

"If you want to have a chilling effect, you have to send a strong message.This is not a strong message.They only pay back the money they took."

In 2018, two Costco pharmacy directors pleaded guilty to professional misconduct to the Ontario College of Pharmacists.

The university accused Joseph Hanna and Lawrence Varga of having asked for these illegal payments. They then acknowledged that the applications could "reasonably be considered … as unprofessional", according to the College Discipline Committee's decision.

Each pharmacist has been fined $ 20,000 and ordered to pay $ 30,000 in costs.

In a statement Friday, Costco said it cooperated with the investigation and agreed to pay the fine.

The company stated that she "sincerely believed at the time that the advertising programs mentioned were not contrary to Ontario law" and that he was "happy" that the remittance order issued by the Ministry gives further guidance on the issue of discounts. "

The company pointed out that the college's decision indicated at the time that Costco "operated in an area of ​​legal uncertainty".

Costco added that she "would never act knowingly or intentionally in a manner inconsistent with the laws of Ontario".