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Clinics searched for signs of drug scam

Clinics searched for signs of drug scam

The Taipei District Prosecutor's Office yesterday searched 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 illegally 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.
NHIB Taipei Clinic Director Fang Te-mao, however, denied any wrongdoing on the part of his staff, saying that the rebates they got from pharmaceutical companies were returned to the clinics to help reduce their operational costs.
"It is absurd to accuse our medical staff of putting the rebates into their own pockets," he said, adding that such rebates were among the reasons why the two clinics have been able to run more efficiently.
Sources said the prosecutors suspect the two clinics raised the base prices for the drugs they planned to buy so that they could bargain for larger rebates from the companies who won their contracts. According to what they have found, some medical staff responsible for procurement might have profited from such transactions.
The prosecutors also suspect 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 laws.
As part of their routine work, Huang said he and his staff collect information about how large hospitals set the prices they pay for certain medicines.
Through bargaining with pharmaceutical companies, the two clinics may be able to buy reasonably-priced medicines of better quality for their patients, he said.