Not long ago, alarm bells went off when drug resistant malaria was found to be the result of substandard pharmaceuticals sold by certain Indian laboratories. In that case, the medicines were found to possess less than half than the active principle against malaria in most cases.
In the case of China, the problem is parallel pharmacies. The Chinese have been used for centuries to rely on parallel systems of medication: modern and traditional. In the case of traditional, there is a strong tendency to believe the medication will be effective even in some cases where the medication actually worsens the picture.
But the greatest concern at this time, is the circulation and sale of illegal cancer drugs, especially in Hong Kong.
These parallel, independent pharmacies are selling the medications under the counter, and online, to those who are hoarding it in fear they will disappear from circulation. In fact such medication are being taken off the market due to safety concern in China proper.
This activity is not only creating a lucrative black market system, but defying the efforts of those who are trying to curb its use.
Most of the sales are to mainland Chinese who travel to Honk Kong to get the medication. The advantage is also that the drug can be bought without a prescription and for a cheaper price than in the mainland, where speculation is rampant.
The problem started when red flags were raised on the safety of the cancer drugs produced in the mainland, when some of the drug capsules were found to have been made with toxic raw material derived from scrap leather, a substance treated with tannins, a notoriously dangerous chemical. There is also a flourishing trade of counterfeit labels.
So the Chinese travel to Hong Kong to try getting medication that was made abroad. And that is putting the squeeze on the Hong Kong supply and creating the black market environment for the sale of the medications. In the long run, the trade could put a squeeze on the supply in Hong Kong and the entire Asia market.
After the powdered milk and heparin scare, the Chinese are weary of anything that is produced in the mainland when the slightest suspicion of trouble arises.
Although the sale of the drugs in Hong Kong carries a prison sentence and fine, no one seems to be stopping. The problem, in addition, is that people are buying the drugs without a prescription and may be self medicating. Cancer drugs are often highly toxic, especially if dosage is not respected, with heavy side effects that must be monitored.
Source : France 24/12.2.13