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Efforts guarantee drug quality in rural areas
By Xing Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-28 08:38

Two networks will be established to regulate the drug market in rural areas and provide safer and cheaper drugs for farmers around the country, said China's top food and drugs official.

During a press conference in Beijing Thursday, Zheng Xiaoyu, head of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), , said that work started last year and a drug supervision network and a drug supply network will be put in place in rural areas.

The administration aims to establish drug supervision networks to ensure a safe drug supply in at least 60 per cent of all counties in China and 40 per cent of the country's villages before the end of the year.

Some rural areas are flooded with counterfeit or expired drugs despite the administration's efforts to strengthen inspections, said Zheng.

The variety of drugs available is also limited while prices are prohibitively high, he said.

Weak supervision may be at the core of the problem, Zheng said.

One example is Chengdu's Pengzhou County, Southwest China's Sichuan Province. With a population of 770,000 in an area of 1,427 square kilometres, the county has only 15 drug supervisors.

Last June, the administration carried out successful pilot projects in Beijing, Chengdu, Jiangxi and Shaanxi provinces, he said.

In rural areas of Beijing, the local drug administration bureau hired people to form a social supervision network to collect information.

Meanwhile, the bureau invited public bidding to choose qualified drug retail companies to look after the drug supply in certain areas.

To date, a drug supply network with 2,253 retailers covers all rural areas of Beijing.

In Pengzhou County, similar measures were taken. Zheng said public bidding has ensured remote areas are properly supplied.

For example, Sanhe village in Pengzhou County, 4,000 metres above the sea level, used to be chronically undersupplied due to its limited demand and comparative distance. After public bidding, a drug retail company took over the drug supply there and is now responsible for it.

"Even though the weekly supply to the village is only worth 300 to 500 yuan (US$36 to 60), the company can make a profit from other places in the area to ensure an ongoing supply in remote villages like Sanhe," he said.

The establishment of a drug supply network has also lowered costs for drugs.

In Gubei village of Heilongjiang Province, drug prices dropped an average of 30 to 40 per cent.

"Data we collected from the pilot projects has proven that the two networks help regulate the drug distribution channel in rural areas, ensure drug quality and lower drug prices," Zheng said.

The State Food and Drug Administration is also strengthening efforts to crack down on counterfeit drugs.

Statistics show that 994 counterfeit drug manufacturers and sellers were shut down last year, with facilities and fake goods worth 496 million yuan (US$59.8 million) seized.

Since 2000, at least 95 per cent of the drugs manufactured in China have met national standards, according to a sampling inspection results.

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