News / Economy

More Foreign Pharmaceutical Firms Could be Probed in China

A Chinese national flag flutters in front of a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) office building in Shanghai, July 12, 2013.
A Chinese national flag flutters in front of a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) office building in Shanghai, July 12, 2013.
Reuters
China's official news agency hinted that more foreign pharmaceutical firms could soon be implicated in a corruption scandal sweeping the industry, in the wake of bribery accusations against British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

"It will not be surprising if more pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, domestic or international, are to be involved in probes in the days to come,'' the Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday in an English-language commentary.

Xinhua did not name any firms or hospitals, but said the government was trying to tackle "rampant'' malpractice in the pharmaceutical sector, including corruption.
    
Underscoring the rot in China's health sector, state media said more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and administrators at 73 hospitals in Zhangzhou city in the southeastern province of Fujian had been found taking kickbacks.

State broadcaster CCTV said 90 percent of the city's doctors were involved and that authorities had recovered 20.5 million yuan ($3.34 million) in illicit funds after a six month investigation.
   
A lot of the kickbacks revolved around the distribution of medicines, CCTV said. It said 57 people, called "drug reps" in the report, had been detained. CCTV did not name any companies.

Chinese police have accused GlaxoSmithKline of funneling up to 3 billion yuan ($488.81 million) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials to boost sales and the price of its medicines in China.

GSK has called the accusations "shameful" and on Monday said some of its Chinese executives appeared to have broken the law.

Xinhua said multinational pharmaceutical companies should set a good example for local firms.

"Big international firms should shoulder [their] due responsibilities to bid farewell to malpractice," it said.

Such commentaries, while not official statements, provide a window into the government's thinking. English-language commentaries are also often intended for international consumption.

Government crackdown

Xinhua said the following government agencies were all taking action: the ministries of public security and health, the National Development and Reform Commission, which sets prices, and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, a regulator.

"It is true that malpractice has [been] rampant in China's pharmaceutical industry and hospitals for years, but now China [is] determined to reform its health system and root out malpractice, including taking kickbacks and price-fixing," the commentary added.

Chinese police have questioned local employees from another British drugmaker, AstraZeneca. The company has said police were treating this as an individual case and not related to other investigations.

Authorities have also visited the offices of Belgian drugmaker UCB. And the authorities have detained a British and a U.S. citizen, although it is not clear if those detentions were directly linked to the pharmaceutical probe sparked by the GSK allegations.

Corruption in China's pharmaceutical industry is fueled in part by the low base salaries for doctors at the country's 13,500 public hospitals.

On Tuesday, Xinhua said 39 employees at a hospital in southern Guangdong province would be punished for taking kickbacks totaling 2.82 million yuan from two local drugmakers between January 2010 and December 2012.

China has committed to making health care affordable for its 1.37 billion people. But ordinary Chinese cite the cost of medicine as a major irritant. Many Chinese prefer foreign brands over local drugs because of the widespread circulation of fake medicine.

China's State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday said in a statement posted on the government's website that it would reform drug pricing and procurement mechanisms, guarantee drug quality and "fairly reduce drug costs... and resolutely investigate illicit kickback behavior."

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8957
JPY
USD
120.93
GBP
USD
0.6393
CAD
USD
1.2199
INR
USD
63.470

Rates may not be current.