Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-05-22
|A pharmacist. (photo/Xinhua)|
The Zhejiang Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce seized the Hangzhou branch office of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG on the night of May 21, and the company's branch office in Beijing was searched on the same evening.
A spokesperson for the company, Wang Hua, confirmed on May 22 that the administration visited the Hangzhou branch office, but denied that the Beijing branch office was searched. He claimed that details about the surprise visit were still unclear but that the company is willing to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation. The administration refused to comment on the raids.
The Chinese government has been expanding its investigation into the pharmaceutical industry since the exposure of bribery by UK company GlaxoSmithKline PLC in April. The British company was accused of bribing Chinese doctors, hospitals, and officials so as to sell more medicine, an accusation over which the company expressed deep concern.
This kind of scandal is nothing new for the pharmaceutical industry, however. In 2012, the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency found that Roche Holding hid 15,161 death reports on its drug Tamiflu. This March, the company was again muddied in bribery charges in Italy, where the company and its adversary Novartis were charged for monopolizing the drug Lucentis.
The firm, currently one the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, was founded in 1896, it headquarters are in Basel in Switzerland. It owns the largest market share in terms of in vitro diagnostic devices, cancer drugs, and immunosuppressive drugs. It fares especially well in China with its cancer drugs.
Herceptin, the best-selling cancer drug, has been on shelves in China for over one decade. Flu drugs such as the controversial Tamiflu are also one of the company's main products. The Cochrane Collaboration, an international non-profit reported on April 10 that not only is the drug unable to ease flu symptoms and stop the virus from spreading, but it actually worsen symptoms. The company responded saying that it fundamentally disagreed with this report.
Based on medicine prescribed in hospitals, the China Pharmaceutical Industry Association calculated in 2009 that the Shanghai branch of the company ranked first in sales with 13.8 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion), its adversary Novartis ranking second with 12.1 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion). Global sales for the firm amounted to 455 billion Swiss francs (US$503 billion) in 2012, a growth of 2% compared with the year 2011, and 98 billion Swiss francs (US$108 billion) in profits, a growth of 1%.