Mainland fake drug network smashed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:03pm


Mainland police have detained almost 2,000 people in a nationwide sweep on a fake drugs network said to be worth 1.16 billion yuan (HK$1.42 billion).

The Public Security Ministry said yesterday that 24 large crime organisations had been smashed in the highly co-ordinated effort.

The raids, which took place on July 25, involved 18,000 officers from 190 cities cracking down on more than 1,100 illegal operations. They confiscated around 205 million tablets of fake medicine along with millions of knock-off trademark logos, packages and instruction manuals.

Some of the seized drugs falsely claimed to be able to cure illnesses such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and skin disorders. The adverse effects of the fake drugs could prove fatal, the ministry said.

Some counterfeit medicines were even tainted with narcotics or hallucinogenic compounds which could lead to liver and kidney problems, or even heart failure.

The ministry said some fake rabies vaccines were found to contain only salt water.

The raids came amid a renewed wave of counterfeit drug production, despite ongoing efforts over the past two years to clamp down on the underground operations, the ministry admitted.

One analyst questioned whether such a large-scale bust would only lead to more public doubts about the government's ability to safely supervise medicine production, especially in the wake of other scandals involving food, toys, clothing and milk in recent years. 'Obviously the fake-drug problems will not be eradicated by a one-off campaign. The problem is deeply rooted in a distorted medicine market that leaves abundant room for profiting through counterfeits,' said Beijing-based political commentator Hu Xingdou .

The ministry also noted that criminals were coming up with new ways to avoid being caught, while others even advertise their fake drugs online, in newspapers and on television.

A spokesperson from the Supreme People's Court said last week that cases involving fake medicine increased dramatically in the first half of this year. Courts across the mainland received 688 cases related to fake drugs between January and June - a 70 per cent jump in the total from the whole of last year.

Earlier this year, mainland consumers were stunned by reports of drug capsules tainted with chromium, long-term exposure to which can cause serious organ damage.

Several internet users responded to the latest bust and, despite the outcome, many expressed frustration and anger. One Sina microblog user wrote: 'Why can't fake drugs be eradicated in China? Are those fake-drug producers secretly backed by local officials?'

Professor Hu added that the health care system in China, where hospitals and doctors are financially dependent on medicine sales, has pushed up drug prices to such a level that numerous underground workshops are willing to take high risks to profit from fake drugs.

'This also reflects an ethical dilemma that the country is facing. Health, justice - nothing is more important than business profits,' he said.