Crackdown on Drug Kickbacks in Vietnam

In Vietnam, it was recently discovered that a major US drug company was involved with Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) doctors promoting two types of drugs in exchange for commission. These doctors allegedly accepted kickbacks to prescribe drugs made by Schering-Plough, which merged with Merck & Co., Inc. in 2009. In light of this news, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered the Ministry of Health to impose penalties on any pharmaceutical companies and doctors who engage in kickbacks.

The Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) set up a team in March 2010 to investigate prices at drug distributors and manufacturers in HCMC. DAV will submit their findings to the Ministry of Health by April 15. Leaders of HCMC’s medical university and its hospital also held a press conference on March 29, 2010 to discuss the controversy and announce its course of action in regards to its staff. The hospital has suspended the doctors temporarily. In addition, they will block contact between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives on hospital premises.

Commissions can be widespread, where doctors set up private practices to supplement their low state salaries. In the industry, many local pharmaceutical representatives have discussed the common practice of offering gifts, kickbacks, and meeting outside of hospitals.