Public Health Ministry to look into kickback allegations in hospitals

Thailand’s public health minister has promised to look into allegations that many of the Ministry’s 186 hospitals have received kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for buying their products.

Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Wednesday that he will order a formal investigation, if there is substance to the allegations which, he admitted, have tarnished the reputation of the Ministry.

The allegation has pitted Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Sukhum Kanchanapimai against the director of Khon Kaen provincial hospital, Dr. Charnchai Chanworachaikul, who was recently transferred to assist with work at the Ministry, by Dr. Sukhum, who appointed Dr. Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat, director of Phra Pokklao Hospital in Chanthaburi province, to succeed Dr. Charnchai.

Dr. Charnchai was accused, in an anonymous letter sent a letter to the Ministry, of allegedly receiving a 5% kickback from drug companies, between March and October 2018, in exchange for buying products from certain suppliers.

Mr. Anutin said that he must examine all aspects of the controversy to ensure fairness to all concerned.

Meanwhile, Mr. Manoo Sawangjaeng, an independent academic, claimed that, last November all 186 hospitals under the supervision of the Public Health Ministry received kickbacks from drug companies, citing information gleaned from sales representatives of the drug firms.

Drug companies in Thailand are divided into foreign manufacturers, local manufacturers and trading companies.

Mr. Manoo said that the trading companies, which import drugs from abroad, are the mostly directly involved in the kickback process.

In September, 2017, the Cabinet issued a directive banning state hospitals from receiving kickbacks and all forms of benefits from drug companies.

Drug companies later switched to offering donations to hospitals to beat the ban.

Mr. Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, deputy secretary-general of National Anti-Corruption Commission, blamed budgetary constraints for making hospitals, mostly community hospitals, feel the need to demand kickbacks from drug companies to be paid into a welfare fund of each hospital.

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