China sweeps in on drug counterfeiters

Even the threat of execution fails to stop growth of fakes
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In another major display of action, 18,000 Chinese police officers executed the roundup of nearly 2,000 drug counterfeiting suspects and destroyed 1,100 production plants.

China appears to be demonstrating to the world that it takes drug counterfeiting and substandard manufacturing seriously. The raid comes about two months after a much smaller sweep of capsule makers that were allegedly using gel made from leather scraps to save money.

The fake drugs, valued at $182 million, were advertised for everything from hypertension to cancer and rabies, the Ministry of Public Safety says in a statement. According to Reuters, it did not specify if any of the drugs were sold only domestically or if any were being exported.

China and India are identified by the Washington-based International Policy Network as the world's biggest sources of counterfeit drugs, Bloomberg reports. The country also has issues with drug manufacturing quality. In 2008, contaminated ingredients from China were responsible for 80 deaths and dozens of illnesses tied to heparin from Baxter International ($BAX). 

A few months ago, China recalled 13 drugs and said it was investigating 43 capsule manufacturers because their products were tainted with dangerous levels of chromium. The makers were using industrial-grade gel made from leather scraps instead of the required  food-grade material. China's Biostar Pharmaceuticals, which discovered it had bought 5 million of the substandard capsules, announced last week that the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) said it could again ship products.

Five years ago, the country executed the former head of the SFDA for taking $850,000 in bribes to overlook problems with some manufacturers. Even the prospect of death has not kept problems with counterfeiting and ignoring quality standards from growing. In its recent statement, the Health Ministry says that while "the criminals' methods were despicable and have caused people to boil with rage," the arrests would not put an end to the problem. "The crime of making fake drugs is still far from eradicated, and criminals are coming up with new schemes, becoming craftier and better able to deceive."

- read the Reuters story 
-  get more from Bloomberg 
- see the RTTNews story 

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