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China cracks down on online drug fraud
Updated: 2009-05-15 23:13

BEIJING -- People using the Internet to sell counterfeit medicines in China will face severe punishment as the government gears up the fight against illegal business in the next year, according to a consensus by 13 ministry departments Friday.

The ministerial departments held the meeting to launch a year-long campaign with aims to cut off circulation channels of fake drugs, mainly through online purchasing and postal delivery.

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The departments included the Ministry of Health, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and ministries of industry and information technology and public security.

This marked the establishment of a mechanism that will more effectively coordinate different departments' work to curb the production and sale of fake products, said Shao Mingli, vice minister of health and the head of the SFDA.

He said as pharmacies are strictly regulated, but online dealers have now emerged as a new hotbed for counterfeit medicines. Illegal dealers publish online advertisements to lure customers, who then make payment when the product is delivered to their doorstep.

Regulations in China asked businesses to acquire qualification and permits to conduct online sale of medicines, something which is often ignored by illegal dealers.

This made it difficult for the health and drug watchdogs to solely deal with the problem because regulating online business involves other departments such as the Ministry of Industry and Information.

The new mechanism will enable law enforcers to crack down on fake drugs from production to circulation, by closing down Web sites that advertise fake drugs, and by suspending bank and telephone accounts of companies allegedly involved in illegal trade, Shao said.

The campaign will also target the postal service sector that could be used to deliver fake goods.

The SFDA said in February that law enforcers investigated nearly 300,000 cases of illegal activities related to medicine and medical apparatus in 2008, including the production and sale of fake drugs. A total of 363 production places of fake drugs were closed down and 94 people were charged.