Saigon pharma exec sentenced to 12 years in jail for cancer drug scam

By Hai Duyen   August 24, 2017 | 09:18 pm PT
Saigon pharma exec sentenced to 12 years in jail for cancer drug scam
Nguyen Minh Hung, former CEO of VN Pharma at the court in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen
Tests revealed the medicine was not fit for humans, but fortunately it never made it onto the market.

The former CEO of a private pharmaceutical company in Ho Chi Minh City has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for smuggling medicine and forging paperwork.

The court found that Nguyen Minh Hung and his staff at VN Pharma had been importing H-Capita since 2013, which they advertised as a cancer drug from Canada.

In May 2014, VN Pharma won a contract from HCMC’s health department to supply cancer drugs.

In September 2014, the Ministry of Health asked police to clarify the origin of H-Capita, and violations at the company were subsequently uncovered.

The firm’s customs declarations said the drug was manufactured by Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Canada, but police later found that the company did not exist, according to prosecutors.

Documents vouching for the drug's quality, including ostensibly Canadian-issued certificates and the signature and stamp of the Vietnamese Embassy in Canada, turned out to be fake, they said.

Hung was found guilty of instructing staff to forge other documents and signatures under the name Helix Canada.

The true origin of the drugs remains unclear, but tests conducted by health authorities confirmed that up to 97 percent of them contained capecitabine, which should not be used on humans.

Vo Manh Cuong, the director of H&S shipping company, also got 12 years for importing the drugs for VN Pharma.

Nguyen Tri Nhat and Ngo Anh Quoc, former deputy CEOs of VN Pharma, were sentenced to five and four years in prison, respectively.

Three other former VN Pharma staff received two to three years sentences each, while Pham Anh Kiet, CEO of Sapharco, another drug company, got two years.

The trial into the case of VN Pharma also revealed that the firm allegedly handed over at least $330,000 to doctors to prescribe specific brands of medicines.

The company admitted to jacking up the prices of several imported drugs to cover the additional cost.

The names of the doctors and their hospitals have yet to be revealed, but the court has ordered a further investigation into the matter.

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