China Cracks Down on Counterfeit Drugs

By Ariel Nagi 11/02/11

Several scandals over fake meds have rocked the Chinese pharmaceutical industry, which is a major supplier to the US.

A major score for China's cops Photo via

Chinese cops cracked down on a counterfeit drug ring in the country last week, arresting an estimated 114 people and seizing $30 million worth of fake medications and more than 65 million med bottles. Ironically, this happened just as a US Food and Drug Administration official, Dara Corrigan, was visiting Shanghai to discuss the importance of safe drugs and China’s role as a major supplier to the US. Other scandals, including fake drugs and unsafe medications, have sparked concern over China's increasing importance in the global prescription drug market. The issues date back to 2008, when hundreds of people in the US reported severe allergic reactions to Chinese-manufactured heparin, a medicine to prevent blood clots. Those reactions were eventually traced to contaminants in drug ingredients from a factory west of Shanghai. After that, the FDA set up offices in China and increased its inspections there, from only a few in 2007 to more than 80 last year. One of the biggest areas of concern is mail-ordered prescriptions and online pharmacies, which have often been linked to counterfeit drug scandals not only in China, but in countries such as the Dominican Republic as well, where scammers recently posed as DEA agents to trick US-based online prescription drug consumers out of their money. China is fighting problems with online sales of fake drugs too, sometimes from fraudulent websites that use names of common pharmaceutical companies—but not their products. “It’s not just drugs but dietary products that can have all sorts of things in them,” Corrigan said. “Limiting risk in that area is a big challenge.”

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