The case involved former VN Pharma’s chairman of the Board of Directors cum General Director Nguyen Manh Hung, former director of H&C International Marine Trade Company Vo Manh Cuong and seven other defendants.
In a trial in August, the HCM City People’s Court sentenced Hung and Cuong to 12 years behind bars for smuggling. Cuong bought the drugs from an overseas source and later, sold them to VN Pharma. The other seven defendants were given sentences between 18 months and five years of imprisonment.
After the first trial hearing, Hung and Cuong appealed against the court’s judgment, asking for a lighter sentence.
On September 22, the High-level People’s Procuracy in HCM City protested the court’s judgment, asking for clarification on Hung’s charge, which should have been “smuggling” or “manufacturing and/or trading in fake goods claiming to be curative medicines, preventive medicines”.
The People’s Procuracy also asked for clarification on the alleged irresponsibility of the Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) under the Ministry of Health in allowing Hung and other defendants to import the alleged fake cancer drugs to Vietnam, while also giving commission to doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.
Earlier on August 29, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Viet Tien issued a press release clarifying the ministry’s responsibilities in connection with the licensing for VN Pharma to import 9,300 boxes of H-Capita 500mg in 2013. H-Capita 500mg contained capecitabine, which is mainly used to treat breast, gastric and colorectal cancers.
According to the press release, the DAV on October 16, 2013, received a request from VN Pharma to import the H-Capita drug manufactured by Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc of Canada.
The DAV approved the import request two months later on December 30, 2013.
"The DAV conducted the drug evaluation process with right order, right protocols and right regulations without any favouritism," the press release stated.
"According to the law, a drug import request must include the free sale certificate (FSC) and the certificate for good manufacturing practices (GMP).
VN Pharma had all the necessary papers. However, an investigation later uncovered that the papers were expertly forged and the fraud could not be detected with the naked eye," the release said.
The release stressed that the DAV, however, raised doubts about the drugs when it looked into VN Pharma’s drug bidding price, which was suspiciously lower than that of the same type of drugs manufactured by other countries.
The DAV on July 31, 2014, asked VN Pharma to explain the gap, which it failed to do, prompting the DAV to suspend the import and distribution of H-Capita on August 1, 2014.
The DAV in August seized the drugs following an unusual inspection at VN Pharma and reported the case to the police after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the papers related to Helix Pharmaceutical, the drug manufacturer, were all fake