China’s crackdown against corruption in its healthcare industry has moved on another stage with the news that the ex-head of its drugs regulatory agency is behind bars and awaiting trial.

The former State Food and Drug Administration chief Zheng Xiaoyu, who was expelled from the governing Communist Party last month and was removed from the post in June 2005, has been accused of taking bribes totalling more than five million yuan ($647,000), according to the Xinhua news agency. Zheng's relatives are also being investigated regarding assets worth of millions of yuan not yet accounted for.

All of the bribes, which included cash and gifts, came from pharmaceutical companies and one firm that was named was the Hainan Kongliyuan Group from South China's Hainan Province. The report claims the latter gave Zheng bribes, which included paintings, in return for SFDA approvals on 277 medicines, more than 100 of which were granted in 2005, and the heads of Hainan Kongliyuan have also been detained for investigation.

Since Zheng’s dismissal from the post, China has been investigating corruption throughout the industry, and in November, Hao Heping, former director of the administration's medical equipment department, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting bribes. In a bid to stop the rot, the SFDA says that its officials are no longer allowed to attend “any banquets, recreational or tourism activities that might influence the fairness of their work” and they have also been banned from holding shares in pharmaceutical companies. The agency has also prohibited relatives from working in the same department.

The Communist Party investigated 2,755 bribery cases in the health sector, involving more than 100 million yuan, in 2006. 693 health staff were sentenced on charges of corruption or punished “according to Party or political disciplines,” Xinhua noted, and the government also urged employees to voluntarily return bribes. About 270 million yuan had been turned in by health workers by December 31, according to the Ministry of Health.