China is intensifying its investigation into rampant bribery in the pharmaceutical and medical services sector with a fresh three-month probe slated to begin on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The probe by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), one of China's anti-trust regulators, is aimed at stamping out bribery, fraud and other anti-competitive business practices in various sectors, Xinhua said on Wednesday.
"Commercial bribery not only leads to artificially high prices, it undermines market order in terms of fair competition and corrupts social morals and professionalism," the report said.
The SAIC will hand down severe punishment for bribery in the bidding process for drugs and medical services as this hurts the interests of the Chinese people, it said.
The powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is already investigating 60 foreign and local pharmaceutical firms over pricing. This investigation has yet to conclude.
Separately, Chinese police have accused drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline of bribery. The British company has said some of its senior Chinese executives appear to have broken the law.
Health Ministry officials are also investigating drugmaker Sanofi SA over bribery allegations, something the French company has said it was taking "very seriously".
The SAIC investigation will also look into misleading or deceptive marketing practices used by car dealers, placement agencies and real estate agents among others, the Xinhua report added.
The SAIC is one of China's anti-trust regulators in charge of market supervision. It also looks into bribery cases.
Other sectors affected by the NDRC's pricing probes include milk powder, jewellery and autos.