In March 2009, a series of blunders in Hong Kong’s drug industry shook
up the public’s confidence in the safety of their drugs. This scandal
involved expired medicines, illegal packaging, fake expiry dates on drugs, and
an illegal level of fungi in drugs that led to the death of six patients. Dr.
York Chow, the Secretary for Food and Health, admitted fault on behalf of the
government and stated that both the industry and government had been complacent
on some fronts. In an effort to bolster the public’s confidence in the
drug industry, government health officials assembled a committee of experts
to thoroughly review the drug regulatory system. This committee consists of
patient organizations, industry representatives, and professionals.
While this committee reviews the drug regulation process, the Hospital Authority,
the biggest buyer of drug products in Hong Kong, is now enforcing the following
seven temporary measures to ensure drug safety:
- The Hospital Authority will use multiple suppliers to purchase high-risk
and high-volume drugs so that replacement drugs can be acquired immediately
in the event of a drug recall.
- As a precondition for drug procurement, drug makers will have to present
proof of microbiological testing of drugs on high-risk patients.
- The Hospital Authority will use a more extensive range of drugs for microbiological
- Drug suppliers will have to present more extensive information on drug
delivery so that the Hospital Authority can check the safety of the drugs.
- The Hospital Authority plans to ask for further information on drug registration
details (i.e., pack sizes) from the Department of Health (DOH).
- Drugs will be tracked by using a computer system in pharmacies. This computer
system will involve a barcode system.
- A new office for drug quality assurance will be formed to deal with complaints.
Additionally, the Hospital Authority may even prohibit drug companies that
were involved in the recent drug-safety scandal from attaining future drug procurement.
As for a long-term solution, the drug industry, the Hospital Authority, and
the DOH are working towards feasible and viable measures to ensure the quality
and safety of drugs for the public. There will be more discussion on this matter
in coming months.