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Watchdog Steps up Policing of Pharmaceuticals Market

China's pharmaceutical watchdog on Tuesday launched a six-month national campaign to improve the policing of drug markets in a bid to prevent accidents caused by fake drugs and medical equipment.

At a national meeting in Beijing, State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) leaders told branch officials to enhance supervision of license applications, and the production, distribution and use of drugs, vaccines and medical equipment.

Drug companies found giving misleading information in their license applications would be blacklisted and publicly named, and those with inadequate management, illegal production and potential risks to the safety of drugs in production would be punished, an SFDA official said.

Drugs packaging, labels and instructions must ensure that the chemical names are more noticeable than their commercial names, to help the public avoid paying inflated prices for common medicines.

It also urged improved surveillance and reporting of negative effects or incidents of drugs and medical equipment, and stepped up coordination with health departments in publicity and management of drugs in clinical use.

Drug and food safety was crucial to people's lives and their supervision and inspection required constant effort and attention, said Vice-Premier Wu Yi in a letter delivered to the meeting.

The campaign is due to start in June and "must achieve progress", said Shao Mingli, head of the SFDA.

Nine people died earlier this month and two others are still fighting for their lives after receiving fake drugs in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, earlier this month.

They received injections of a drug purporting to be Armillarisni A which is produced by the Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a private manufacturer based in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

Two people are still in a critical condition after falling into a complete coma.

The government closed the company and banned the sale of all its medicines after the incident was revealed. Efforts have also been made to trace and recall drugs.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao ordered government departments to launch a thorough investigation into the incident and intensify the regulation of the pharmaceutical market.

(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2006)

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