In response to public outrage over last year’s revelation that Xinfu, an antibiotic manufactured by an Anhui province pharmaceutical company, had caused the deaths of at least ten patients, China’s State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) began an anti-corruption campaign on January 26. As part of this campaign, the SFDA launched an initiative this week aimed at increasing the agency’s transparency and accountability to the public. In order to facilitate greater transparency and public oversight, beginning in the latter half of the year, the SFDA will regularly convene press conferences.
At the press conference on Monday, SFDA chief Shao Mingli stated in uncharacteristically strong language that the public had a “right to know” about food and drug safety (Xinhua, April 2). The following day, the SFDA ordered all of its officials and their immediate family members to surrender the 3.5 million shares that they held in pharmaceutical firms. SFDA officials also relinquished an additional $325,000 in gifts and cash that they had received from pharmaceutical firms (Xinhua, April 3). The new anti-corruption measures include rules that prohibit SFDA officials and their families from taking part in banquets and recreational activities sponsored by pharmaceuticals. In addition, the SFDA’s departments have also been ordered to divest themselves of the twenty-two pharmaceutical companies that are currently run by the SFDA itself.
This unprecedented initiative is largely the result of recent criticism by Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference members, who accused the SFDA of an “over-concentration of power and the lack of public supervision” (Xinhua, April 2). For the past year, the SFDA has been the subject of ongoing investigations of graft by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s anti-corruption watchdog. Three of the SFDA’s former officials have been sacked, two of whom have already been sentenced on charges of graft and corruption. The third official, former SFDA director Zheng Xiaoyu, was recently expelled from the Chinese Communist Party and is currently under investigation for failing to properly supervise the drug market and for accepting bribes in return for drug approvals. Zheng, who has since been the subject of public ridicule and animosity, was most recently subjected to an unsuccessful attempt by the Shenyang Feilong Pharmaceutical Company to use his name as a trademark for rat poisons and pesticides (People’s Daily, March 9).