Corrupt Chinese FDA Chief Executed

"Why are the friends who gave me money all the bosses of pharmaceutical companies?" he wrote in his [confession] letter, entitled How I Look on My Mistakes. "Obviously because I was in charge of drug administration."....."There were so many companies going to him and he simply couldn't resist the temptation," said one drug company executive who befriended Mr. Zheng in the 1980s and did not want to be identified discussing the delicate issue......Eventually, the court found him guilty of accepting bribes from eight drug companies, condemned him for dereliction of duty for failing to police the drug industry or his subordinates and creating regulatory schemes that allowed dangerous drugs to come to the market. Industry officials say Mr. Zheng probably accepted many more bribes, but the government did not need evidence of any more to ask for the death penalty.....Mr. Zheng's lawyer pleaded for leniency, saying his client had cooperated with the authorities and, at times at least, had actually worked to improve the drug industry. But on July 10, the state- run media issued a terse statement: "Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration, was executed Tuesday morning with the approval of the Supreme People's Court." - David Barboza, New York Times,
A Chinese Food and Drug Official Betrays His Cause, and Pays

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

The execution of a former head of the Chinese Food and Drug Administration, who began his career in government as a consumer advocate determined to strongly regulate the pharmaceutical industry and ensure the safety of drugs and vaccines, may seem extraordinarily harsh. However, his choice to betray the people and take money from an industry he was responsible for regulating in exchange for allowing dangerous drugs, vaccines and food to be marketed, caused the deaths and compromised the health of thousands of innocent people in China and other countries.

What is the appropriate societal sanction for powerful leaders in government whose irresponsible, immoral actions kill and injure members of a trusting public? An equally important question: what is the appropriate societal sanction for wealthy drug company officials, who participate in corrupting government employees responsible for regulating pharmaceutical and other consumable products that end up injuring and killing people? Sanctions for drug company lobbyists, who give financial incentives to doctors and politicians to push widespread use of pharmaceutical products that carry serious health risks - or even legally require their use - is another outstanding issue.

The corruption of a once honest man by corporate executives exploiting people for profit is a human tragedy. The people doing the corrupting should not be left off the hook. Equally important is the need for politicians in every country to refrain from putting too much power to regulate and recommend pharmaceutical product use in the hands of one unelected bureaucrat working for a government health agency.

Mechanisms for strong public participation and oversight should be an integral part of any public health program that involves government or physician recommended use of pharmaceutical products. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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