Of­fi­cials: Ma­jor­ity of for­eign drugs sold on­line fake

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XU WEI in Bei­jing and CHEN HONG in Shen­zhen

China’s food and drug author­ity has is­sued an­other warn­ing about over­seas drugs sold on­line, say­ing that 75 per­cent of such drugs are coun­ter­feit.

The China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in an on­line state­ment on Wed­nes­day that the au­then­tic­ity of generic anti-cancer drugs sold on­line can­not have their au­then­tic­ity and qual­ity guar­an­teed.

The author­ity cited an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the drug ad­min­is­tra­tion of Shen­zhen that said that 75 per­cent of for­eign generic an­ti­cancer drugs sup­plied by on­line agents are fake and in­ef­fec­tive.

Zhi Xi­uyi, head of the Lung Cancer Di­ag­no­sis and Treat­ment Cen­ter of the Cap­i­tal Med­i­cal Univer­sity in Bei­jing, said Chi­nese cancer pa­tients turn to on­line agents mainly for cheap generic drugs and for­eign new drugs have not yet been ap­proved in China.

“Due to the high cost of de­vel­op­ing new drugs and get­ting patents, many newly de­vel­oped drugs are very ex­pen­sive. Yet such drugs are in­cluded in the med­i­cal in­sur­ance sys­tems of the EU and the US,” he said.

“Many pa­tients turn to on­line agents for those drugs be­cause the drugs are too ex­pen­sive in the do­mes­tic mar­ket or they are not yet avail­able in the over­seas mar­ket,” he said.

As for generic drugs, most that are sold on­line are im­ported from In­dia, he said.

Cancer treat­ments like Gleevec, which typ­i­cally cost more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600) a month, are not cov­ered by the med­i­cal in­sur­ance sys­tem, while the cost for the generic treat­ments is only about 1,000 yuan a month.

An anal­y­sis by Doc­tors With­out Borders, an in­ter­na­tional health or­ga­ni­za­tion, sug­gests In­dia now makes one-fifth of the world’s generic drugs, with about 50 per­cent shipped abroad and sold — of­ten il­le­gally — at a frac­tion of the cost.

Zhi said the drugs sold by on­line agents are risky as they are ad­min­is­tered with­out drug au­thor­i­ties’ su­per­vi­sion. “Pa­tients can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween gen­uine drugs and fake drugs as it re­quires tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and equip­ment.”

Peng Donghong, an of­fi­cial with the drug ad­min­is­tra­tion of Shen­zhen, said the on­line trans­ac­tions of drug sales have made it dif­fi­cult to su­per­vise the mar­ket.

Ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese reg­u­la­tions, on­line drug­stores can sell only non­pre­scrip­tion medicine, and the stores must ob­tain au­tho­riza­tion from drug au­thor­i­ties.

To keep pa­tients from re­sort­ing to generic drugs, the author­ity should speed up the ap­proval of for­eign drugs into the Chi­nese mar­ket and in­clude more an­ti­cancer drugs in the health­care sys­tem, Zhi said.

“There should be a fast track for anti-cancer drugs de­vel­oped in the US or EU,” he said, adding that it now takes sev­eral years for the Chi­nese drug author­ity to ap­prove any new drug.

Mean­while, the author­ity should ex­pand the cat­e­gory of anti-cancer drugs cov­ered by health­care pro­grams to make the drugs more af­ford­able.

“It is im­pos­si­ble for the govern­ment to ab­sorb the en­tire cost as the drugs are ex­pen­sive. Thus the cost should be shared by three par­ties: the govern­ment, the pa­tient and the drug­maker,” he said. Con­tact the writ­ers at xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn and chen­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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