The Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office Friday searched the two clinics run by the National Health Insurance Bureau in northern Taiwan as part of its probe into allegations that the two clinics might have illegaly profiteered from their procurement of medicines for their patients.
A prosecutor said they searched the accounting offices of the two clinics in hopes of finding documents showing what he called the illegal profits the two clinics might have gained from their procurement of medicines. “Such illegal profits might have exceeded NT$70 million according to our preliminary investigation,” he said.
However, NHIB Taipei Clinic Director Fang Te-mao denied any wrongdoing on the part of his staff, saying that the rebates they got from pharmaceutical companies were returned to the clinics in order to help reduce their operational costs.
“It is absurd to accuse our medical staff of putting such debates into their own pocket,” he said, adding that such debates were among reasons why the two clinics have been able to run more efficiently.
Sources said the prosecutors suspected that the two clinics raised the base prices for the drugs they planned to buy, so that they could bargain for larger debates from those who have won their contracts. According to what they have found some medical staff responsible for the procurement might have profiteered from such transactions.
The prosecutors also suspected that a number of pharmaceutical companies might be colluding with large hospitals in Taiwan to report false medicine prices to gain illegal profits, the sources said.
Huang Chao-ming, deputy chief of the medicine procurement section of the NHIB, said the NHIB would fully cooperate with the prosecutors carrying out the investigation, but added that he believes no one in the bureau had broken any law.
As part of their routine work, Huang said he and his staff collect information about the prices paid by large hospitals for their medicines in setting the prices they would paid for certain medicines. Through bargaining with pharmaceutical companies the two clinics may be able to buy reasonably-priced medicines of better quality for its patients. he said.
Huang also said the NHIB do not function like other large medical institutions, of which medical staff might directly benefit from the rebates given by pharmaceutical companies.
Fang and Huang were among the four suspects who have been listed as defendants in a fraud case. The prosecutors will decide whether to charge them with corruption or other offenses when they have analyzed the evidence they had collected.