Hospitals to Crack Down on Drug Company Kickbacks

By Tang Xiangyang
Published: 2010-11-18

Kickbacks issued by pharmaceutical companies to doctors who prescribe their medicines have served as one of the main sources of income for Chinese doctors over the past few decades. But now, doctors might be forced to relinquish this grey income, as the Ministry of Health yesterday announced plans to clean up corruption in the medical sector.

On November 16, the Ministry of Health stated that it would prohibit hospitals and doctors from providing information regarding sales volume of particular medicines to agents or sales represenentatives from pharmaceutical companies.

Doctors, as well as their managers, will be severely punished if they are found to have collected or released such information.

Usually, after receiving information about drug sales, pharmaceutical company representatives will then provide doctors with monetary kickbacks in proportion to the amount and type of medicine that they have prescribed and sold to patients.

According to the newly announced regulations, the superiors of any doctors who release such information will also be held accountable.

Chinese hospital patients have long complained about unreasonably high medical expenses and the current widespread systen of kickbacks is widely believed to contribute to the problem.

In one recent example, dozens of doctors at six hospitals in the city of Hangzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Zhejiang, were recently accused of receiving bribes from a pharmaceutical company called Tairui Yiliao (泰瑞医疗).

According to a report on Zhejiang News Online, the accusations first appeared in an online forum.

The author of the thread claimed to have discovered the information saved on a memory stick that they had found on a public bus.

According to the information posted online, the doctors had received cash, telephone cards, shopping cards, digital cameras and other items in return for prescribing specific drugs.

So far, all the doctors listed in the exposed file have denied receiving bribes. The related hospitals also claim that they have long prohibited doctors from accepting kickbacks.

An official from the Ministry of Health told a reporter with the People's Daily that doctors who receive such kickbacks will be criticized, denied from promotion or even dismissed from their positions depending on the amount they have accepted.

Doctors who receive huge amounts of kickbacks will have their licenses suspended or even revoked.

As for those drug companies that offered payments, their actions will be recorded and they will be prohibited from attending any provincial-level medicine auctions for two years. Local hospitals will also be prohibited from purchasing medicines from any pharmaceutical company that has been black listed for engaging in such activity.

Currently the Zhejiang and Hangzhou health bureaus are conducting investigations into the case.

However, as all of the six hospitals implicated are directly under the control of the Hangzhou Health Bureau, some doubt whether the investigation can be impartial.


After a self inspection all the doctors in the six Hangzhou hospitals who were exposed for receiving kickbacks from a pharmaceutical company, Tairui Yiliao, have admitted that they have accepted gifts including a digital camera and a telephone card worth 200 yuan; they also have admitted to have been treated to dinner by the pharmaceutical company, but have denied receiving cash.

However, the reliability of this investigation is widely doubted since it was conducted by the six hospitals themselves and dominated by the Hangzhou Municipal Health Bureau, the direct regulatory body of the six hospitals.

The result of the investigation was released by the Zhejiang Provincial Health Bureau, supervisor of the Hangzhou Municipal Health Bureau. It said it would severely punish those hospitals and doctors based on "further investigation".

The pharmaceutical company, Tairui Yiliao,has been blacklisted and will be prohibited from participating in the drug tendering process for two years.


Links and Sources
Ministry of Health
: 医生拿回扣 可能砸饭碗
Zhejiang News Online: 网曝杭州数十医生回扣清单 多者一月有好几千

The Beijing News: 部分医护人员接受礼物请吃
QQ: Image