China Arrests 1,300 People For Selling Fake Drugs

By McCarton Ackerman 12/18/13

The practice of selling bogus drugs has reached epidemic proportions in recent years.

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Photo via Shutterstock

In one of the largest mass drug arrests of 2013, Chinese police arrested 1,300 suspects for producing and selling fake prescription medication online. Roughly 140 illegal websites and online pharmacies in 29 provinces and cities throughout China have been shut down since last June, with 2.2 billion yuan ($362.4 million) worth of fake drugs and raw materials seized. The six-month crackdown was announced at the beginning of July by the cabinet’s State Food and Drug Administration.

The bogus drugs claimed to deal with illnesses ranging from heart problems to children’s colds and flus. The practice of selling fake drugs has become an epidemic throughout China in recent years; the  number of prosecutions totaled 8,000 last year, a five-fold increase from the previous year. But even when these medications are legitimate, they can still be contaminated. Beijing pledged to clean up their medicine sector in 2008 after 149 Americans died from taking contaminated Chinese supplies of the blood-thinner heparin in 2008.

Drug addiction has continued to skyrocket throughout China in the last 25 years, rising from 70,000 registered addicts to 1990 to 1.8 million in 2011. However, cultural shame surround addiction may even be masking the true numbers of addicts in China, which could be as high as 12 million. Approximately 600,000 people in China develop lung cancer every year, largely due to  the country being the top consumer of cigarettes in the world and burning through 50,000 cigarettes every second. Chinese officials have attempted to tackle the issue this year by announcing plans to turn the country’s infamous re-education labor camps into drug recovery centers.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.