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Drug company bribed doctors: report

Updated: 2013-12-18 00:43
By Wang Qingyun in Beijing and Wang Hongyi in Shanghai ( China Daily)

A listed pharmaceutical company in Shanghai has been accused of bribing doctors to improve its sales.

Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding has allegedly given kickbacks to doctors in 31 hospitals in Qingdao, Shandong province, for prescribing an anemia treatment produced by its subsidiary, Qingdao Growful Medicine Co Ltd, according to a report in 21st Century Business Herald.

Hospitals involved include top-level public ones in the city, including the Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University and Qingdao Municipal Hospital Group.

The subsidiary company allegedly got 2.9 million yuan ($478,000) from selling the medicine from January to June to the 31 hospitals, while giving more than 760,000 yuan in kickbacks to doctors in those hospitals.

The company paid 6 to 8.5 yuan to the hospitals for each box of the medicine prescribed, while the price it is sold for in Shandong is about 39 yuan, the newspaper report said.

A spokesman for the board of Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding who declined to be identified told China Daily on Tuesday that the company has launched an investigation into the incident and will act if the accusations are proved true.

The company has a zero-tolerance policy on bribery, he said.

A publicity officer with Qingdao Eighth People's Hospital, one of the 31 hospitals allegedly involved in the kickbacks, who only revealed his surname as Liang, told China Daily that the hospital's leadership has noted the incident and will carry out its own investigation.

The disciplinary committee of Qingdao health bureau has begun investigating the incident as well, he added.

Yu Mingde, chairman of the China Pharmaceutical Enterprises Association, said that bribing hospitals and doctors is not rare among pharmaceutical companies in China.

"It did not start this year or last year. It took more than a decade for this problem to keep developing," he said. "When many pharmaceutical companies are doing this, the companies that choose not to do so cannot compete with others to win bids from hospitals and sell more of their products."

Some hospitals need the money, as the revenues they get through legal means don't cover their operating costs, and doctors are accepting kickbacks as they believe they get too little for the great risks and burdens in their work, Yu said.

"The government should spend more on supporting public healthcare and improve doctors' income," he said.

There were similar incidents this year where GlaxoSmithKline was found to have bribed doctors and Sanofi-Aventis was alleged to have bribed doctors for more prescriptions of its medicines.

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Hu Qing in Qingdao contributed to this story.