The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said Friday it will call in around 100 doctors at hospitals and medical centers across the nation on charges of receiving illegal commission from Korea’s largest pharmaceutical firm Dong-A Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
The prosecutors have already sent summonses to some of the doctors, who allegedly received kickbacks from pharmaceutical firms. The rest will be summoned in the coming days.
The doctors are thought to have received money or goods worth more than 3 million won ($2,800).
The investigation team will question how the money was handed over and decide the level of punishment by determining how many of the alleged exchanges were made prior to November 2010, when a law went into effect to simultaneously penalize both the giver and receiver of kickbacks.
Sources said the entire industry was on edge over the probe against the rampant practice.
“Some doctors are fidgeting over the summoning because of fees they received after giving lectures for workers from pharmaceutical firms,” a medical worker said on a webpage for the medical industry.
Other pharmaceutical firms were also said to be worried for possible expansion of the investigation.
“Drug firms really want the case to be wrapped up as quickly as possible. They hope the prosecution will not turn over more rocks,” an industry source said.
The prosecutors filed charges last Thursday against seven former and sitting executives of Dong-A Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, which had allegedly provided kickbacks worth around 4.8 billion won to doctors at 1,400 hospitals and medical centers.
The pharmaceutical giant is suspected of giving illegal favors to the doctors through agencies to avoid the prosecutors’ crackdowns.
The firm gave fees to doctors for their online lectures, bought them expensive name brand clothes, musical instruments, or electronics, and paid expenses for their children to study overseas.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org