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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

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.