119 doctors caught with kickbacks from Dong-A

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119 doctors caught with kickbacks from Dong-A

Over 100 practicing doctors are facing judicial action for taking kickbacks from Dong-A Pharmaceutical, the country’s biggest drug manufacturer, and 18 have been formally indicted for allegedly taking more than 10 million won ($9,090) in kickbacks.

A government team said Sunday 119 doctors have been punished for receiving inappropriate favors from the top medicine maker in exchange for prescribing its drugs. Among the 119, those who received less than 10 million won in kickbacks and came clean during the probe will be fined between 1.5 and 7 million won, according to the investigators.

A dual punishment system was introduced in November 2010 through which both the payers and takers of kickbacks are subject to punishment. Before then, only the pharmaceutical companies were held accountable.

Despite the stricter punishments, the latest bust shows kickbacks are still common between pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

“Nearly 1,400 doctors in the country were found to have received illicit payments from Dong-A Pharmaceutical,” said an official involved in the case, who requested anonymity.

The bulk of those doctors took kickbacks before the implementation of the dual punishment system. They will have their licenses suspended for two months, the investigative body added.

The investigation team said Dong-A attempted to use some subterfuges to disguise payments of kickbacks. Some doctors were paid to appear in instructional videos for Dong-A employees. A doctor from Daegu was allegedly paid 36 million won for such appearances.

One orthopedic surgeon in Seoul was indicted without physical detention for taking a Breitling wrist watch worth 11 million from Dong-A.

Since the probe was launched in April 2011, around 6,100 doctors have had their medical licenses suspended for taking payments from various pharmaceutical companies while 208 doctors and hospital officials have been indicted.

Under the current law, doctors imprisoned for breaking medical laws lose their medical licenses immediately. The Korean Medical Association held an emergency board meeting yesterday to respond to the legal actions.



By Shim Sae-rom, Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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