A Seoul court issued an arrest warrant for an executive at Kolon Life Science, who was involved in the development of suspended osteoarthritis gene therapy Invossa-K. Another exec managed to avoid the arrest.
The Seoul Central District Court issued the arrest warrant for the head of the Clinical Development Team at Kolon Life Science, surnamed Cho, at around 0:30 a.m. on Thursday. The decision came 23 days after the court rejected the warrant request.
“The need for arrest is recognized considering the content of the added crime, the extent of the explanation, the position and the role of the accused, and the progress of the investigation to date,” the court said.
The court also reviewed the company’s bioresearch center director, surnamed Kim, but did not issue the arrest warrant. “It is difficult to recognize the necessity of arrest given the extent of the explanation of the offense in the first warrant request and the degree of involvement of the suspect concerning the additional offense,” the court noted.
Cho and Kim are suspected of submitting false data to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to obtain the Invossa license, even though they had known that the second fluid of the drug contained kidney-derived (GP2-293) cells, not cartilage-derived cells as indicated in the label.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office had sought an arrest warrant for the two for the obstruction of justice, but the court rejected it on Nov. 4. The prosecution conducted an additional investigation and filed a warrant request again on Nov. 22.
The additional epidemiological investigation report submitted by the prosecution must have influenced the issuance of the arrest warrant for Cho, observers said. Lawyers of the Invossa-treated patients submitted the epidemiological survey on Nov. 14, detailing how the treatment affected the patients. Physicians for Humanitarian Action released the interim results of the survey on 86 Invossa-treated patients (109 injections) and in-depth interviews with them in mid-October.
According to the survey, three out of four patients received Inovossa injections after the hospital’s recommendation, and 66.3 percent of the respondents were told that the injection had a “cartilage regeneration effect.”
Most of the Invossa-treated patients experienced stronger or more frequent pain than before and took painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs more often than before. One-third of the patients suffered mental stress, including anxiety.
As the prosecution arrested Cho, it is expected to expand the probe to executives at the upper level to identify who ordered the data fabrication and who was in charge.
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