Counterfeit Drugs in China: Shanghai Steps Up Drug Monitoring Systems

In January 2003, the Shanghai Drug Administration Bureau announced its resolve to tighten controls over pharmaceuticals and drug distribution as well as create more efficient systems for reporting adverse reactions to medication. According to recent reports by the bureau, of 14,980 drugs inspected in 2002, 1,833 were found to be below quality standards. China is also the largest producer of counterfeit drugs in the world. Some of these imitation or counterfeit pharmaceuticals are composed of materials that do not contain proper active ingredients; some are filled with talcum powder or flour, while others contain toxic materials.

Shanghai will be the first city to implement these tighter controls. In many cities, even members of the police act as informants to medical distributors, alerting them of impending spot checks. A system is already in place in Shanghai to prevent pharmacies and drug manufacturers from being tipped off prior to inspection visits.

Greater efforts will also be made to strengthen the capabilities of the Shanghai Drug Adverse Reaction Monitoring Center. The city plans to create a more effective system of adverse drug reporting and response in order to protect the safety and health of local residents. Last year, the center received 960 calls regarding adverse reactions to medication from local medical facilities. This is three times greater than the number of calls received in 2001.

According to the Shenzhen Evening News, approximately 192,000 Chinese people have died because of fake drugs. Since China’s accession to the WTO (December 2001), the Chinese government has made concerted efforts to crack down on the counterfeit drug industry. In the first half of 2002, the government uncovered 70,000 cases of counterfeit drug production; this figure exceeds the total number of cases uncovered in the whole of 2001.

Director of the Shanghai Drug Administration Bureau, Wang Longxing, stated “In the year 2003, the bureau will spend more time monitoring the drug market following the whole process from manufacturing to selling. Moreover, we will strengthen the registration system for new medicines and appliances to control the market.”