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HIRA mulls penalizing drug makers suspected of illegal lobbyingAgency denies effects on assessing insurance payment, pricing drugs
  • By Yang Geum-deok
  • Published 2017.03.07 09:11
  • Updated 2017.03.08 18:35
  • comments 0

Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA) has expressed regrets at the results of prosecutors’ investigation that two HIRA assessors received money from pharmaceutical companies in the process of new drug registration for insurance coverage.

Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA)

HIRA also decided to consider imposing penalties on the pharmaceutical companies involved in the bribery scandal, the stage agency said Monday.

“We are confirming whether the two assessors, one former and one incumbent, actually meddled in the registration process of the four companies’ drugs, as announced by the prosecution,” it said. “As far as we know, the scandal has yet to affect the assessment of insurance payment or drug pricing.”

Particularly the drugs allegedly mentioned in a hidden contract have not been registered yet as the subject for insurance coverage, it said.

“HIRA has given the go-ahead to the compound of aspirin and dipyridamole applied by one of the four companies raided by the prosecution, but has not decided yet whether to register it,” a spokesman said. “We have affirmed their illegal activities had not affected the registration of the drugs, but we feel sorry for failing to catch the acts of bribery and other problems in the management system. We sincerely regret it.”

The agency has worked out measures to prevent the recurrence of irregularities by, for instance, reexamining the entire process, from the appointment of assessors to their work process, and toughening penalties on lobbying companies. HIRA also decided to improve its work process, including establishing a systematic structure, to ensure all the jobs of these assessors are done in fair and objective manners.

It also will gradually expand the disclosure of assessment results, strengthen the screening of assessors from their appointment, obligate the reporting of illegal lobbying and toughen penalties. On HIRA officials, the agency will prohibit their stock trading with inside information, and reexamine which of them are involved in conflicts of interests with drug companies under their jurisdictions.

To prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, HIRA will exclude drugs of suspected violators from insurance coverage even if they were subject to preferential treatment, or set separate assessment period for them.

“HIRA will make continuous efforts to prevent its recurrence by implementing substantive measures, such as enhancing the transparency and fairness of the assessment committee, and coming up steps for more efficient operation of the panel,” the official said.

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