Korean biopharma executive indicted for allegedly conducting illegal trials on company researchers
Korean news outlets are reporting that an executive at a major Korean pharmaceutical company has been arrested for conducting illegal clinical tests on company researchers.
Citing the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office and other officials, The Korea Times reported that Auh Jin of Ahn-Gook Pharmaceutical was arrested for carrying out illegal tests on the company’s own researchers in violation of the country’s pharmacy law. The Korea Herald similarly reported that Jin had been arrested.
The news came as a major blow to a company that has already seen its share of bad headlines and to a Korean sector that has seen both legal controversy and major research failures in recent months. Last week, Korean authorities reportedly raided the offices of biotech SillaJen on suspicion of insider trading (executives had apparently sold some or all of their shares directly before news broke that a Phase III trial for a major oncolytic had failed and the company’s stock pummeled). Before that J&J, Boehringer and Eli Lilly walked away from major deals with Hanmi, shocking the stock price, and Samsung Biologic’s stock was suspended over violations related to its 2016 IPO.
According to The Korea Times, Ahn-Gook administered several medicines to researchers, including antihypertensive and anticoagulant agents, as it tested incrementally modified drugs. Due to a risk of internal bleeding, these drugs require prescriptions and constant monitoring, none of which were provided, The Korea Times reported. The researchers also allegedly did not sign consent forms and did not receive checkups.
The operation was reportedly uncovered when a National Forensic Service analysis found the company was using human blood for tests, as opposed to the beagle blood they listed in reports.
Ahn-Gook said the tests were fully voluntary and done with researcher consent, according to The Korea Times.
For Ahn-Gook, this news comes after the company faced allegations of giving kickbacks to physicians in both 2009 and 2014 – a charge that has reappeared. The Korea Times reports that in July, Jin and other executives were also indicted for bribing 85 doctors to prescribe their products, giving out nearly $7.5 million. The doctors were also reportedly indicted.