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China tackles corruption in healthcare sector

Several years ago, I was in Hong Kong meeting with publishers and medical industry experts to gather information for a Chinese-language medical manufacturing magazine that my company wanted to launch. One prominent publisher I met with shared an ancient Chinese proverb that, he said, we should keep in mind as we entered this market: Heaven is high and the emperor is far away. In other words, it's not wrong if you can get away with it. I was reminded of that as I read about corruption in China's healthcare sector this week.

Norbert Sparrow

May 29, 2015

1 Min Read
China tackles corruption in healthcare sector

A story in today's South China Morning Post reports that government officials have launched an investigation into a top official who oversees the country's medical devices sector. This on the heels of a revelation that the former head of a healthcare ministry unit is under investigation for bribery.

"Authorities are investigating Tong Min, the head of the medical devices supervision unit at China's food and drug regulator for serious disciplinary violations," writes the South China Morning Post. The statement came from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, adds the newspaper, and it uses a term—serious disciplinary violations—that usually refers to corruption. 

Earlier this week, Reuters revealed that Wang Yu, the former top official at the Bureau of Medical Administration, was under investigation for accepting bribes. That office oversees the drafting and implementation of healthcare policy, manages clinical trials and helps supervise the operation of public hospitals.

The investigations are part of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption, which lately has focused on the healthcare sector. You may recall the almost $500 million fine levied against the local subsidiary of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline plc last year, which was found guilty of bribery.

It's not surprising that authorities have chosen to investigate the healthcare market, which is the second largest in the world. In fact, McKinsey & Co. projects that healthcare spending will reach $1 trillion in China by 2020.

It remains to be seen whether Jinping's crackdown will be effective or simply one more variation of whack a mole. One thing's for sure, though: The proverbial emperor is not as far away as he used to be.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree. Reach him at [email protected].

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