Mainland police have cracked a massive crime network that bought used drug packages and bottles from hospital cleaners across the nation and sold them for the production of fake drugs, according to the Ministry of Public Security and local media. The discovery is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg - a huge fake-drug market on the mainland. A nationwide crackdown that ended on Thursday busted 350 phoney-drug rings and resulted in 1,770 suspects being detained, although so far only the one syndicate has been found to be using recycled packaging to deceive customers. A statement by the ministry said the fake drugs they seized could have fetched 2 billion yuan (HK$2.44 billion) if sold at the market price for genuine drugs. During a regular inspection of taxi stands on July 20 in Jinhua city, Zhejiang, police found a passenger - identified only by his surname, Li - carrying 700 sets of used drug bottles and boxes, along with medication instructions and anti-forgery tags. The police began investigating the man and later discovered that his family had been buying used medicine packages and bottles from large hospitals in Zhejiang for years. Li's family built a network that covered all large hospitals in the province - with at least one cleaner supplying used packages from each hospital, China National Radio (CNR) said. Li had a family member supervise the collection. The police also found that Li's family had been supplying packages to fake-drug manufacturers in Beijing and Shanghai. But Li was only part of the huge nationwide network involving more than 300 people, the report quoted Jinhua's deputy director of public security, Yu Liujiang, as saying. The syndicate mainly targeted packaging for expensive imported drugs for cancer treatment, which cost tens of thousands of yuan, the report said. Fake-drug producers would put their products - containing cheap medicine, salt water and fake tablets - into recycled containers and sell them online. The CNR report said the syndicate supplied packaging for fake versions of cancer-treating drugs such as MabThera, used to treat lymphoma; Trastuzumab for breast cancer; and Tarceva for lung cancer. Authentic products cost at least 10,000 yuan or more per pack. The report said four main players were involved in the supply chain: hospital cleaners who sold the packages, the hospital agents who bought them, the wholesalers of the containers and finally the fake-drug makers. Jiang Yiqun, deputy chief of the Jinhua public security bureau's economic crimes inspection team, told CNR that a hospital cleaner could pocket 1,500 yuan for a complete package for Trastuzumab - including the bottle, instructions and labels of authenticity - and 1,200 yuan for Mabthera. 'If patients' conditions become worse after taking these phoney pills, their relatives won't suspect that the drugs have problems. Instead they think the disease itself is deteriorating,' an official from the city's drug inspection station unit was quoted by The Beijing News as saying. He said the fake drugs they seized mostly contained starch and wheat powder. Local police said some violators even mixed in tranquilisers, hormones or insomnia medications. The Ministry of Public Security's statement said fake drugs were being sold via the internet, clinics and pharmacies, and some of them could cause serious illnesses or death. They sometimes include harmful chemicals that may cause addiction, diabetes and kidney damage.