The top health authority has urged local officials to look into allegations of payment-for-prescription schemes between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
Teams from the National Health and Family Planning Commission have been sent to hospitals in Shanghai and Hunan province to investigate claims that doctors have been accepting bribes, according to a statement on Sunday.
The statement came a day after China Central Television broadcast the findings of an eight-month undercover investigation at six hospitals in the two places.
Sales representatives from pharmaceutical companies were found to be paying doctors kickbacks to prescribe their medicine. According to the CCTV expose, they usually visited a doctor's office at lunch, counted the medicine they had prescribed over the past month and handed them cash in an envelope.
One doctor received 12 yuan (.70) for every box of medicine prescribed, which worked out at a total of 1,800 yuan for 150 boxes.
The national health commission said it will look into the pharmaceutical companies mentioned in the CCTV program as well as work with other government departments to step up supervision and punish violations.
Medics who accept kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies or accept "red envelopes" (envelopes stuffed with cash) from patients face tough penalties and even dismissal.
Rules banning doctors from promoting brand-name medicines or taking commission for prescriptions were introduced in December 2014 by the national health commission and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
"Doctors aren't well paid and their work is not respected by today's society, so when they're given the chance to get cash from sales representatives it's hard for them to resist the temptation," said Fu Hongpeng, a researcher for the National Health and Family Planning Commission.