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Infant Formula Scandal: Doctors Bribed with Europe Holidays, Golf Trips, Branded Bags and Other Pricey Gifts

The Competition Commission of Singapore has found that rising marketing costs is a significant factor in the soaring of infant formula prices in Singapore – 120 percent over the past 10 years.

An industry insider has revealed that some premium milk powder brands spend much of this marketing budget “bribing” doctors with expensive presents.

Such gifts include all-expenses paid holidays to Europe and the United States, sponsored overseas trips to play golf, branded handbags, amongst other pricey rewards for good behaviour.

The purpose of the gifts is to encourage doctors to recommend certain brands of milk powder to parents, or keep their brands on the milk rotation list for a longer period.

The industry insider says such “bribery” is rife in private clinics and private hospitals.

News of the infant formula scandal was first broken by state media outlet Lianhe Wanbao.

It reported this evening that a reliable industry insider revealed the rampant “bribery” that is going on behind the scenes, but stopped short of naming infant formula companies involved.

Lianhe Wanbao reported the industry insider as saying such companies would send sales staff to get into the good books of doctors, understand their habits and give them gifts based on their preferences.

The industry insider gave the example that if a doctor liked to play golf, the premium infant formula company’s sales staff would sponsor them with an all-expenses paid trip abroad to play golf.

The industry insider said such pricey gifts are “not an exaggeration”.

Expensive gifts to doctors aside, the Competition Commission has found that infant formula companies pampered hospitals by paying for things like dinner and dance functions, shuttle buses for staff and “rotation fees”.

More than 50 percent of babies in Singapore are born at private hospitals.

As outlined in the Sale of Infant Food Ethics Committee Singapore’s code of ethics, no financial inducements are allowed to be offered to hospitals, clinics and retail pharmacies to promote infant formula products.

It is compulsory for all companies operating in the baby food industry in Singapore to follow these guidelines.

The Health Ministry does not allow public hospitals to enter into such arrangements with milk formula firms, but it has not applied this rule to private hospitals.



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