Anti-graft campaign hits drug watchdog

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-05 07:01

The recent corruption scandals swirling around the pharmaceutical industry have led to speculation that more people are involved and the national food-and-drug watchdog might have its wings clipped.

All State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) officials, incumbent and retired, have been asked to prove their innocence, reported China Business newspaper yesterday.

Those who abused power for personal gain were asked to hand in illicitly-obtained money or assets by last Friday or face harsher punishment, an SFDA insider told the newspaper.

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The SFDA has been under a cloud ever since a series of corrupt officials were uncovered last year. It culminated with December's announcement that Zheng Xiaoyu, former chief of the SFDA, was under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party's anti-graft watchdog.

Zheng has been accused of taking huge bribes and abusing his power to grant favors to his relatives during his 8-year-rein in the SFDA since 1998.

Earlier, several of his former subordinates, including two of his secretaries, were netted for bribe taking.

A series of anti-graft warnings and correctional efforts presided over by new SFDA chief Shao Mingli suggest an overhaul is imminent.

The scandal has also toppled some entrepreneurs reportedly implicated with the Zheng case, with the latest being Tang Xudong, president of Hangzhou-based Kangliyuan Group. The pharmaceutical company has been ordered to suspend operation.

Meanwhile, "the State Council is considering taking away the power to supervise food and health care products from the SFDA and establishing an exclusive committee under the State Council in charge of food safety," the insider was quoted as saying.

The right to approve new drugs might also be taken from the SFDA and given to another committee under the State Council, he said.

"The SFDA's power will then be greatly reduced and there will be no need for its existence as a vice-ministerial level department," he said. "It might be merged with another ministry."

In 2002, China adopted a national standard under which medicines have to be approved by the SFDA before sale. The change, which granted great power to the SFDA, bred rampant corruption to secure drug approvals.

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