Monday, April 5, 2010

More Granularity -- On "Kickbacks" In Vietnam, Today

This is the longest English language version article yet out, on the allegation that Schering-Plough's in-country operations have been paying vast (in proportion to annual incomes, in Vietnam) "commissions" to liver doctors to prescribe PegIntron®. Do go read it all. This brings to five the number of separate news organizations reporting on the matter:

. . . .A doctor at the HCMC University Medical Center received kickbacks of VND528 million ($27,687) for selling SP products to treat hepatitis, according to the report. He also received another VND459 million for just one SP medicine sale in August last year, said the newspaper.

Another doctor at the center received VND226 million also for prescribing SP Pharmaceuticals’ hepatitis medicines at his private practice in August last year.

A doctor at Medic Medical Center and another at Cho Ray Hospital received similar illegal commissions from SP, the paper reported.

Vietnam's annual per capita income is about $1,000.

Vince Docherty, an official at Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) Pharmaceuticals, which owns SP Pharmaceuticals, told Tien Phong on March 22 that the bribery problem was a serious problem and that it was a pity it had not been reported on earlier.

Asked whether or not the commissions were company policy, Docherty only repeated that the issue was serious before stating that MSD had formulated a plan to solve the problem. But he said it would take time. . . .

SP’s HCMC branch sells about VND6 billion ($315,700) worth of hepatitis medicines in HCMC per month, of which VND1 billion a month is taken in by SP’s Vietnam country head, the paper said.

Nguyen Ha Anh, a five-year veteran pharmaceutical sales representative in HCMC, told Tien Phong that drug companies routinely give doctors gifts alongside free drug samples they are told to sell. In return for the sales and prescriptions the doctors fill, they are given a portion of the price tags, Anh said.

"Very few of them ask about the functions of the medicine, but most ask about the commission," she said, adding that she would lose business to her competitors if she didn’t offer high kickbacks. . . .

How long until this story works its way upstream -- to Kenilworth, and then, ultimately Whitehouse Station -- raising issues under the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, for the US executives in charge of the Hep C franchises?

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