The country's highest prosecutor’s office has ratified charges against nine people, most of them executives in a private drug company based in Ho Chi Minh City, for allegedly smuggling in fake cancer drugs worth over US$251,000.
Nguyen Minh Hung, CEO of VN Pharma, four company executives, and Vo Manh Cuong, director of shipping company H&C, face charges of smuggling, according to the indictment by the Supreme People's Procuracy.
Pham Anh Kiet, CEO of another drug company Sapharco, a local pharmacist, and an executive of VN Pharma, have been charged with "faking stamps and documents."
While the charges of smuggling are punishable by either life or death under Vietnamese law, the others face up to seven years in jail.
Prosecutors said the case was busted in September 2014 after the Ministry of Health sought police's help in clarifying the origin of H-Capita, a cancer drug imported by VN Pharma since 2013.
In May 2014 the company won a contract from the city Department of Health to supply the drug at VND31,000 per tablet, less than half of the department's starting price.
The company’s customs declaration said the drug was manufactured by Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Canada, but the police later found that the company did not exist, according to prosecutors.
A file photo shows police search VN Pharma's headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City on September 19, 2014. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Documents vouching for the drug's quality, including ostensibly Canadian-issued certificates and the signature and stamp of the Vietnamese embassy to Canada, turned out to be fake, they said.
Tests by Vietnamese agencies later confirmed that the drug's main agent, capectitabine, used for inhibiting tumor growth, was of poor quality and could not be used on humans.
The media quoted public hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City as saying they did not take delivery of the drug before the investigation was completed. But a police raid of VN Pharma found only 9,268 boxes of H-Capita out of 9,300 it had been licensed to import.
Besides the cancer drug, the company's executives are also suspected of using similar schemes to smuggle other counterfeit drugs since 2012, prosecutors said.
They allegedly paid at least VND7.5 billion ($336,000) to doctors at local hospitals to sell their drugs.