Government to launch probe into graft in medical sector

Source:Global Times-Agencies Published: 2013-8-14 23:38:01

China is intensifying its investigation into rampant bribery in the pharmaceutical and medical services sector with a fresh three-month probe slated to begin on Thursday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The probe by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, a market supervision regulator, is aimed at stamping out bribery, fraud and other anti-competitive business practices in various sectors.

It comes as other regulators such as the National Development and Reform Commission and the police investigate how foreign and local companies do business in the world's second-biggest economy.

Much of the focus has been on the pricing of items from medicine to milk powder and whether companies are violating a 2008 anti-monopoly law.

The administration will hand down severe punishments for bribery found in the bidding process for drugs and medical services.

Commercial bribery not only leads to artificially high prices, but also undermines market order in terms of fair competition and corrupts social morals and professionalism, said the administration.

The commission, which oversees pricing, is investigating 60 pharmaceutical firms over their pricing practices.

The investigations underline China's toughening stance on corruption and high prices in the pharmaceutical industry, as the government seeks to make healthcare access universal and faces an estimated $1-trillion healthcare bill by 2020.

The latest foreign drugmaker in the spotlight is Switzerland's Novartis, which on Wednesday did not respond to repeated requests to comment on a newspaper report that it bribed doctors to boost sales in June and July of this year.

The 21st Century Business Herald quoted an unidentified former employee, who had supervised sales at large Beijing hospitals, as saying her manager told her to give 50,000 yuan ($8,200) in kickbacks to doctors to guarantee 640,000 yuan in cancer drug sales.

It said the employee, identified by the pseudonym Li Li, asked the company for 5 million yuan or she would take unspecified actions.

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