China Enacts Nationwide Counterfeit Drug Takedown, Arrests 2,000 People
August 6, 2012

China Enacts Nationwide Counterfeit Drug Takedown, Arrests 2,000 People

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A counterfeit Chinese drug ring has been broken up and more than 1,900 people have been arrested for the manufacture and sale of fake drugs and related goods valuing close to $182 million US, according to Chinese authorities.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the government plan to take down the operation began on July 25. The counterfeit drugs being marketed were supposed to treat various illnesses including hypertension, diabetes, and cancers, according to the Ministry. More than 18,000 authoritative agents were involved in the takedown across the country.

But despite the arrests, authorities said the problem of counterfeit drugs was “far from being rooted out.”

State-run Xinhua news agency first reported the bust on Sunday (August 5), stating that Chinese government authorities detained nearly 2,000 people as part of the country-wide crackdown on the marketing of counterfeit drugs and health care products.

Drug counterfeiting had become more “elusive and deceptive” in China as “'criminals have come up with new methods” to market and sell their fake products, despite government efforts to snuff out production and sales in recent years, authorities said.

Earlier this year, authorities in Zhejiang Province discovered that hospital workers were saving old packages from high-end medications and reselling them to drug counterfeiters to refill them with fake drugs. Authorities in May also arrested 200 people for the sale of fake drugs.

Many counterfeits are selling their product online directly to customers. Authorities have also found ads for the sale of counterfeit drugs in magazine ads and TV commercials. BBC News reported that the Ministry is warning the public to protect themselves by only purchasing drugs from trusted sources, including hospitals, pharmacies and other trusted vendors.

The Ministry has promised to reward anyone who has information on drug counterfeiting. But even with help from the general public, the government will likely have a difficult time eradicating this problem. It seems scandalous events pop up every few months. In 2007, the government executed the former director of the state´s food and drug agency for failing to control the marketplace.

Less than 1 percent of medicines in developed markets are counterfeit. But in developing and underdeveloped countries, counterfeit drugs can make up more than 30 percent of the drug trade. Currently, China and India make up the bulk of the counterfeit drug trade; these markets cause 700,000 deaths per year among malaria and TB sufferers alone, according to the American think tank International Policy Network.

China has raised the maximum penalty for dealing in counterfeit drugs and related goods to a death sentence to try and contain the illegal production of counterfeit drugs.

The Chinese forecast for drug spending is projected to grow to $125 billion a year by 2015 -- a 19 to 22 percent increase in just 3 years, according to IMS Health Inc in a 2011 report. That is the fastest growth rate in the world.

Chinese authorities said these counterfeit drugs have led to liver damage and cardiac arrest in numerous people, the main reason takedown efforts were conducted on such a mass scale.