Doctors, lecturer suspended after healthcare scam exposed

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A lecturer and two doctors in Ho Chi Minh City have been suspended following media reports that they had been receiving commissions from a pharmaceutical company for prescribing its drugs.

Two doctors at the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacology Hospital were suspended Sunday, following media accusations that they had received commissions from drug maker Schering-Plough Company, according to Nguyen Hoang Bac, vice director of the hospital.

They were also ordered to write reports during their 15-day leave, Bac said, adding that one of the two had denied the allegations.

Le Quan Nghiem, vice president of the university, said on Monday that a lecturer from the school was also put on 15-day leave after recent media reports said he had also been working as a marketing director for Schering-Plough Company's hepatitis products.

The lecturer, whose identity wasn't revealed, was asked to write a report explaining the incident to the school's management board, according to Nghiem.

Nghiem said the university was now waiting for a conclusion to be announced by government inspectors currently investigating the case.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health said Merck Sharp & Dohme, which acquired the German-owned company last year, had asked for an extension in submitting reports on the allegations.

Local media on March 17 reported that some doctors and pharmacists, including those working at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy and its hospital, were receiving commissions from Schering-Plough, between 10-30 percent of drugs prices, or up to VND500 million (US$26,212) a month, to prescribe its drugs.

The commissions were received through a drug store in District 10.

The exposure prompted Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to order an investigation into the case last Friday.

In an interview with Thanh Nien, the Ministry of Health Deputy Minister Cao Minh Quang said the fact that doctors prescribed medicine based on commissions had long been known to be true in Vietnam, but authorities had yet find enough evidence to tackle the problem.

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