Safety standards for medicines manufactured in China have been called into question after a former drug safety bureau director in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong was sentenced for taking bribes from more than two dozen pharmaceutical companies.
Cai Ming, former director of an office in charge of drug safety at the Guangdong Province Food and Drug Administration, was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 400,000 yuan ($62,436) by the Guangzhou City Intermediate People’s Court, reported Chinese news portal Sina. He was convicted of accepting bribes totaling about 6.23 million yuan (about $973,725).
Additionally, Chinese authorities seized 14 million yuan (about $2.2 million) in cash from Cai’s home. He could not explain how he had gotten the cash.
In exchange for bribes from pharmaceutical companies, Cai used his position—which included reviewing drug applications, issuing drug safety certificates, and supervising local pharmaceutical companies—to help those companies perform favors.
For 12 years—from January 2004, when he became the bureau’s deputy director, until June 2016, when he was detained for investigation—Cai accepted bribes from 28 pharmaceutical companies. He became the bureau’s director in June 2011.
Kangmei Pharmaceutical, an A-share company listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, bribed Cai a total of 300,000 yuan (about $46,930) so that the company could continue “good relations” with him, reported the state-run news website China Internet Information Center (china.com.cn) on June 1. At the end of 2015, Kangmei once paid 100,000 yuan (about $15,656) for the sole purpose of providing financial support to Cai’s son, who was going to study abroad in Australia.
Jiaying Pharmaceutical, listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, bribed Cai 80,000 yuan (about $12,519) in June 2009 during the company’s quality standards certification, known as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). Later, in November 2010, the company put together another 160,000 yuan (about $25,039) in bribes during the bureau’s reviewing process for a flu medicine the company had produced. The money was to smooth over any issues that would come up during the reviewing.
Danxia BioPharmaceutical bribed Cai the most. It paid a total of 1 million yuan (about $156,420) over the course of its relationship with Cai.
Danxia, which manufactures blood products, was also embroiled in a separate scandal. In June 2017, China’s national Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that it had fabricated data on stability research it conducted on its manufactured human albumins, a kind of plasma protein used for treating severe blood loss, according to China Internet Information Center.
China’s FDA revoked Danxia’s GMP certificate in April.
Cai was also bribed by a state-run company, Guangdong Medicinal Materials, which offered him 100,000 yuan.
On Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, many netizens said they were not surprised. In fact, a netizen with the moniker “beijing-2018” wrote, “This is ‘normal’ in China.”
“The medical field is a hard-hit area of corruption,” wrote Lin Yun, a radio host for China’s state-run China National Radio.
In April, eight hospitals in eastern China’s Anhui Province were investigated for corruption. Di Yuzeng, president of Bozhou People’s Hospital, allowed businessmen to bribe him in exchange for selling drugs and equipment to the hospital.