09/19/2012 08:12 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. health minister announces partial thaw of frozen university drug research

VICTORIA - Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid says she's thawing some of the drug research projects that were frozen after five government employees were fired following an irregularities investigation.

MacDiarmid says drug research contracts with B.C. universities worth about $1 million can now resume since the government has determined they don't jeopardize the investigation.

The ministry paused contracts worth about $4 million earlier this month as part of an ongoing probe into alleged inappropriate relationships between university drug researchers and the ministry that helps decide which drugs are covered by B.C.'s Pharmacare program.

MacDiarmid says the ministry continues to review the remaining contracts with the universities of Victoria and British Columbia.

The government launched its investigation after receiving an anonymous tip about contracting irregularities and inappropriate grant practices at the ministry's Pharmaceutical Services Division.

The government has also asked the RCMP to investigate.