China cracks down on fake drugs

Drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline is going to stop paying doctors worldwide for speaking engagements. And it'll stop setting targets for its drug reps.

Jeremy Hobson: Now to China, where officials have arrested more than 2,000 people involved in the country's vast counterfeit drug industry.

The impact could be felt around the world, as Marketplace's China bureau chief Rob Schmitz reports.


Rob Schmitz: Police in China say they caught two dozen crime organizations involved in making nearly $200 million worth of drugs, from fake diabetes medication to rabies vaccines that contained nothing but saltwater.

Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou says this is all good news, but it’s not enough to tackle what has become a very serious global problem.

Hu Xingdou: China often has these types of campaigns, but you can’t stop this problem with a campaign. The root of the problem is that the pharmaceutical industry in China is very poorly regulated and extremely corrupt.

Hu says it’s rare that fake drugs from China end up in the U.S., but they do end up in other developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa -- places where buying quality pharmaceuticals can be the difference between life and death. Earlier this year, the medical journal The Lancet published a report that found that nearly a third of malaria mediation tested in Africa and Southeast Asia didn’t work.

For its part, China’s government has delivered harsh sentences in the past when it’s found officials responsible for fake drugs. Five years ago, the head of China’s food and drug watchdog agency was executed for failing to supervise the market properly.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...