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China pledges to clean up drugs sector after GSK scandal

State Food and Drug Administration declares a six-month clean up campaign

China today ratcheted up its attack on western pharmaceuticals giants, declaring a crackdown on corruption across the industry.

In the week it accused GlaxoSmithKline of widespread bribery of doctors and officials, the State Food and Drug Administration declared a six-month campaign to clean up the medicines business.

“We must resolutely punish illegal acts, expose illegal enterprises and recall problematic products,” said the administration’s deputy commissioner Wu Zhen. While not explicitly referring to its claims of Glaxo’s ¥3 billion (£323 million) bribery acts, a spokesman added: “If it’s a domestic or foreign invested enterprise, once it has violated Chinese law, it will be sanctioned.”

The campaign will target counterfeit medicines and illegal online drug sales as well as bribery and corruption.

Meanwhile, in a clear reference to the GSK affair, the government mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, declared China must “lift a sharp sword to pierce the improper, even illegal, costs behind rising drug prices” for which multinationals were responsible. GSK, Merck and Astellas Pharma are all now under investigation for their pricing along with dozens of local manufacturers.

The newspaper went on to demand a crackdown on bribery by multinationals in other industries as well. Earlier this month, Nestlé and Danone said they would cut prices of baby milk formula in China after Beijing launched an investigation into the industry.

GSK, for whom China is one of its fastest growing markets, has said it is deeply concerned about the allegations of activities which, if true, were “shameful”.