China's top drug regulator has launched a campaign targeting pharmaceutical companies that falsify clinical trial data. The China Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday ordered the companies to self-inspect their trial data and report their findings by August 25 if they wanted their drugs to be registered. After this date, the companies will be inspected by provincial authorities and face unannounced inspections by the CFDA. Companies that fail to provide the self-inspection report will be unable to go any further in the registration process. Companies found to have forged data or destroyed evidence would face "severe punishment", it said, including being banned from registering drugs for three years. Clinical trial centres found to have forged data will have their licences revoked. Drug makers will be allowed to withdraw their registration applications before the deadline. The CFDA said 1,622 applications would be subject to self-inspection; 171 imported drugs, 948 new domestic drugs and 503 drugs which already had national specifications. Shi Lichen, director of the Dingchen Medical Consultancy, said the campaign would uproot ineffective drugs in the market and speed the approval process. The CFDA had been focusing on drug quality this year and had found many ineffective drugs had been approved, suggesting suspect clinical trial data in some cases, Shi said. "Many applications were based on forged medical charts and exaggerated effectiveness. It's conservative to say 50 per cent of applications were based on forged data," Shi said. The campaign also aimed to reduce the number of applications by allowing companies to withdraw from the process. The administration has long been criticised for its slow approval of clinical trials and new drugs. The centre received 8,868 new applications last year and finished 5,261. There was a backlog of 18,597 applications. Shi said it might take two years for a clinical trial and more than 4 years to get a drug approved. The CFDA has promised to address the backlog within three years.