Everyone wants medicines bought abroad, but they might be ‘fake’ – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for October 13, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“Whether drugs are fake or not depends on their effectiveness. You can’t call a certain kind of drug counterfeit only because it’s not registered in the country.”

“Why would I bother paying extra for overseas medicine when I can buy a domestic drug with the same effect?”

These two comments show how Chinese internet users reacted (in Chinese) negatively to the news that any overseas drug or medicine unregistered in China is deemed to be a counterfeit medical product according to Chinese law.

But the problem is that pretty much any Chinese person who travels to a developed country will bring back electronic products, luxury items, vitamins, health supplements, and medicines. And many of them will do this not for themselves, but to sell for a profit. This is known as daigou (代购 dàigòu) — shopping on behalf of someone, also translated as personal shopping.

According to (in Chinese) the Legal Daily, to cash in on the growing market in China, many personal shoppers based in foreign countries have set their sights on medicines and health products. However, because these pharmaceutical products enter the country without proper registration or approval procedures, they are considered “fake drugs” under Chinese law, and buyers could face prosecution for “producing or selling counterfeit drugs.”

The People’s Procuratorate of Tianning District in the city of Changzhou told the reporter that in the first half of 2017, it had accepted 25 cases involving the overseas purchase of fake drugs, a significant rise from 2016. “Based on the cases we dealt with, many of these shopping agents claimed that they purchased products overseas, but they were actually selling fake drugs produced by themselves in China,” a prosecutor said. “There are also imported pharmaceutical products that are authentic. But according to the law, without verification documents, they are classified as fake products, too.” The prosecutor added that the most popular imported medical products among Chinese clients are cosmetic treatments and medicines for babies.

In a bid to encourage innovation in the domestic medicine industry and make Chinese drug producers more competitive, the Chinese government announced this month that foreign drug trial data would be accepted in the country, a policy change with the aim of accelerating and simplifying approval procedures for drugs and medical devices.