Official under scrutiny for wrongly accusing foreign drug firm

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The Communist Party’s Central Inspection Committee has issued a warning to Deputy Minister of Health Cao Minh Quang for wrongly accusing a foreign drug company of unethical lobbying for cancer vaccines last year.

A health ministry official, who wished to be unnamed, said last year Quang approved US firm Merck & Co Inc (MSD)’s Gardarsil and UK firm GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix vaccine against human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer.

But he later sent a letter in English under the Ministry of Health’s seal to MSD’s chief executive officer Richard Clark and administrative president for the Asia-Pacific region, Ramesh Subramanian, to complain about the company’s unethical lobbying activities in Vietnam.

This prompted the ministry to launch an investigation but inspectors found nothing dubious except for some former officials contacting government agencies to ask if the vaccine had been approved, a “common practice” in Vietnam, according to the official.

Quang’s accusation resulted in loss of prestige to the drug administration and ministry, the official said.

Quang was also found to have committed other blunders, the official said. He had written the letter to a foreign company in English, which is prohibited under administrative rules.

He should have written it in Vietnamese and had the ministry’s Department of International Cooperation translate it before signing and stamping it.

He had also failed to state in the letter that he was signing it on behalf of Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu or inform his superior, according to the official.

Meanwhile, the official said the health ministry’s inspectorate found that the committee headed by Quang that approved GSK’s Cervarix vaccine had made an error by allowing it to be used on women aged 10-55.

The committee had decided on the vaccinees’ ages based on the opinion of 11 gynecologists rather than vaccine experts, according to the inspectorate.

The Ministry of Health later changed the age to 10-25 years.

At its 14-day session which opened on December 4, the Central Inspection Committee recommended “administrative measures” against Quang.

Any official who receives two warnings faces dismissal.

Other disciplines

The committee also concluded that party officials in the ministry had made several errors in managing finances and personnel and delayed implementing the Law on Medicine.

The officials were asked to review and improve their skills.

Huynh Tan Thanh, chairman of south central Binh Thuan Province’s People’s Committee, was warned for wrongdoings in issuing investment licenses and handling subordinates’ violations.

The party units of the Supreme People’s Court were criticized for lax management, prolonged trials in many cases, and handing down unclear verdicts and unlawful suspended jail sentences. The officials have a year to correct their shortcomings before the next inspection, the committee said.

Source:  Thanh Nien, Agencies

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