By Xinhua writer Wu Liming
BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Following China's probe into British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), it was reported that employees from other multinational drug firms, like AstraZeneca and UCB, have also been questioned by Chinese authorities.
The probe into the malpractice of drugmaking multinationals has shown Beijing's firm determination in fighting corruption and malpractice in the medicine industry and hospitals.
It is true that malpractice has become rampant in China's pharmaceutical industry and hospitals for years, but now China has determined to reform its health system and root out malpractice, including taking kickbacks and price-fixing.
Government agencies like the Public Security Ministry, National Development and Reform Commission, State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the Health Ministry, are all taking actions.
It was reported that more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and administrators from 73 hospitals in Zhangzhou city, southeastern province of Fujian, were found taking briberies and kickbacks.
The Health Ministry has said that 39 employees at a hospital in the southern Guangdong Province would be punished for taking illegal kickbacks, totaling 2.82 million yuan (around 460,000 U.S. dollars).
One thing is clear, the chaos of medicine trade should not, by any means, be an excuse for multinationals to resort to bribery, price-fixing and other malpractice.
Multinationals have branches all over the world, and they are very clear of its due social responsibilities. Unfortunately, some of them have been making full use of loopholes of law enforcement in the developing world including China.
According to media reports, a certain type of GSK medicine, which only costs about 30 RMB (about 5 U.S. dollars), is sold to patients at a ten-fold price in China. Parts of its tremendous profits were used for bribing doctors and hospital administrators.
Media reports said GSK has been accused of funneling up to 3 billion yuan (around 489 million U.S. dollars) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials. No wonder the company itself has called the bribery accusations "shameful."
Nowadays, corruption and malpractice in the pharmaceutical industry have become one of the top complaints of the Chinese people.
As a result, the government is taking various efforts to tackle the thorny issues. 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.
To sum up, big international firms should shoulder its due responsibilities to bid farewell to malpractice, setting a good example and serving as a wake-up call for domestic pharmaceutical companies.