Bribery rampant in Vietnamese drug market, study finds

Bribery investigators are hardly barking up the wrong tree when it comes to pharmaceuticals. At least that's the conclusion of a Vietnamese study. As Reuters reports, a Hanoi University researcher concluded that persuasion payments to doctors and hospital procurement officers account for 40% to 60% of a drug's price in that market.

Tuan Anh Nguyen interviewed doctors, drugmakers, government officials and pharmacists, aiming to identify the various elements that contribute to drug costs. Doctors collected the lion's share of payments as companies sought to persuade them to prescribe specific products. The worst offenders were Asian generics makers, whose knockoff drugs can cost more than their branded counterparts, Nguyen said.

But that doesn't mean foreign drugmakers don't cross doctors' palms with silver. Physicians, who say they take pharma money to augment their low salaries, expect commissions of about 15% from European drugmakers, Nguyen said. Multinational companies officially prohibit bribes, but sales reps under pressure to hit their goals often ignore the rules and give money to doctors anyway, the study found. Sometimes the payments come in the form of luxury vacations, which are prohibited under industry codes in the U.S., Reuters says.

Nguyen said Vietnamese doctors aren't alone in collecting money. "When I talk to colleagues in some other Asian countries they say the situation is the same," he told Reuters.

- read the Reuters story