No favour to VN Pharma: Ministry on smuggling case

The Ministry of Health has denied granting any favour to pharmaceutical company VN Pharma amid doubts over the ministry’s involvement in the company’s scandalous drug smuggling racket.


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Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien delivers the press release clarifying the ministry’s responsibilities in the VN Pharma’s cancer drugs smuggling case on Tuesday morning. 

Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Viet Tien made public a press release this morning, for the first time clarifying the ministry’s responsibilities in connection with the licensing for VN Pharma to import 9,300 boxes of H-Capita 500mg in 2013. The drugs contained capecitabine, mainly used to treat breast, gastric and colorectal cancers.

The following year, however, the cancer drugs were found to have all fake papers.

On Friday, the HCM City People’s Court sentenced Nguyen Minh Hung, VN Pharma’s chairman of the Board of Directors cum general director, and Vo Manh Cuong, director of H&C International Marine Trade company, to 12 years behind bars for smuggling. Cuong bought the drugs from a source overseas and later sold them to VN Pharma.

According to the health ministry’s press release, the Drug Administration of Viet Nam (DAV) on October 16, 2013, received a request from VN Pharma to import the drug H-Capita manufactured by Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc of Canada.

The DAV approved the import request two months later, on December 30, 2013.

“The DAV has run the drugs evaluation process by the right order, right protocols and right regulations without any favouritism,” the press release stated.

“According to the law, a drug import request must include the free sale certificate (FSC) and the certificate for good manufacturing practices (GMP).

VN Pharma had all the necessary papers. But an investigation later uncovered that the papers were expertly forged and the fraud could not be detected with the naked eye.”

The release stressed that the DAV however raised doubts about the drugs as it looked into VN Pharma’s drug bidding price which was suspiciously lower than that of the same type of drugs manufactured by other countries.

The DAV on July 31, 2014, asked VN Pharma to explain the gap, which it failed to do, prompting the DAV to suspend the import and distribution of H-Capita on August 1, 2014.

The DAV in August seized the drugs following an unusual inspection at VN Pharma and reported the case to the police after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that papers related to Helix Pharmaceutical, the drug manufacturer, were all fake.

The health ministry asserted that the DAV acted timely and did not allow the H-Capita in question to be sold on the market.

The ministry also said it imposed administrative penalties on officials involved in the case and would adjust the licensing process for imported drugs and carry out some personnel changes.

The health ministry, however, is yet to mention its action on the seven other antibiotics also imported by VN Pharma and manufactured by Helix. Despite being retrieved by the authorities due to “drugs documents not matching reality”, the antibiotics had previously been distributed to hospitals and sold to patients. 

VNS



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