Pharma sponsorships for doctors should be banned, says DNA head

Newsroom 13/06/2016 | 12:03

Private sponsorship for several public institutions active in important sectors and their employees should be prohibited, Chief Prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate Laura Codruta Kovesi stated in a recent interview. Specifically, according to the DNA head, sponsorships for doctors and firefighters should be banned. The statement comes amid investigations by Romania’s anti-corruption body into allegations of bribery by a pharma company and follows several arrests among managers of top hospitals in Bucharest.

It is pretty difficult to assess when a doctor or a firefighter is receiving sponsorship in good faith, to use it for the benefit of the society, and when the sponsorship is a bribery in disguise”, Kovesi told Republica.ro. According to Kovesi, the Romanian state should provide doctors with the necessary trainings as well as cover their travel expenses to congresses and other events, because it is important to offer them the opportunity to improve. Similarly, the state should provide firefighters with the necessary equipment for their missions.

In May DNA prosecutors uncover major bribery case

In May 2016, the DNA prosecuted four managers of a pharma company and several doctors in a high-profile bribery case. According to DNA prosecutors, a pharma company provided sponsorship for 77 oncologists, who traveled to India in 2012 under the guise of participating in an international congress. The costs, such as transportation, accommodation, meals and several trips were covered by the company for participating doctors as well as, in some cases, members of their families. According to the DNA, the doctors, who were supposed to attend the works of the Third Asian Congress for Breast Cancer (March 3-4, 2012), spent most of their time in India in hotels located 2,000 km away from the site of the congress, which they only attended for a few hours. The DNA estimated that, out of the total sum the pharma company spent on the trip, namely EUR 520,607.95, 416,864.1. was used as bribe.

Unfortunately”, Kovesi told Republica, “we have a case in which many doctors are prosecuted […] I cannot comment on that, but I can tell you that the amount that was used by that private company to sponsor the doctors was EUR 500,000. Half a million euros. We can only imagine the amount the doctors prescribing the medicines gathered, in order to attract that sponsorship,” she added. “When considering the health care sector and pharma companies, I can tell you that among our files there are some of companies and forms that sold medicines that are under proectution. That is why,” Kovesi stated, “we must also make pharma companies become more responsible. Because both those who bribe, as well as those receiving it have a material interest and can be punished”.

Two managers of Bucharest hospitals arrested in June 

The DNA has also prosecuted two managers of major Bucharest hospitals under allegations of bribe-taking. Namely, manager of the Bagdasar-Arseni emergency hospital, Bogdan Paltineanu, was arrested for 30 days, following DNA reports. According to prosecutors, Paltineanu received EUR 73,450 and RON 18,600 in bribes to ensure that the procurement contract between the hospital and a company contracted will be carried out without disruptions. Similarly, Dan Nicolae Straja, Manager of the Alexandru Trestioreanu Oncologic Institute was arrested for 30 days. He is accused of having received from representatives of two companies the amount of EUR 95,750 in order to ensure the proper running of a contract agreed by the hospital and the company. The arrest came after raids by the DNA prosecutors at four major hospitals in Bucharest, including Fundeni Hospital and Obregia Hospital.

At the end of May, a study carried out by IMAS and the National Innovation Centre revealed that 66 percent of Romanians trust doctors but not the public health care system. When asked to indicate the main problems of the health care system, 20.7 percent respondents named corruption and bribery.

Georgeta Gheorghe

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