China not only source for counterfeit drugs but also for meth, other synthetics

Counterfeit Cialis--Courtesy of FDA

The FDA once again pitched in last week with other international regulators to crack down on illegal and counterfeit drugs being peddled over the internet. The FDA, Interpol and other authorities seized drugs, shut down some websites and made some arrests. The statistics from the weeklong crackdown are impressive, but there are indications that China in particular is creating new and major problems by becoming the key producer of not just counterfeits but also illegal synthetics.

According to Interpol, last week's Pangea VII interdiction seized nearly 21 million fake and illegal drugs, including products that were supposed to treat cancer and blood pressure, as well as the ubiquitous fake erectile dysfunction drugs. It estimated the worth of the haul at $81 million; 2,410 drug websites were taken down and 156 people were arrested.

According to the FDA, it and U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted 583 packages from overseas. The drugs purported to be everything from insulin to knockoffs of Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis, as well as other products. The packages were labeled as if they had come from the U.K., Australia or New Zealand, places with rigorous drug oversight, but the FDA says they actually originated from lots of other countries, like India, Malaysia, Mexico and of course, China.

China, with its huge but lightly regulated chemical industry, has long been considered the source of the majority of counterfeit drugs being sold online. But according to the The New York Times, some operators there have tapped into something more lucrative, and in some cases more lethal to consumers: synthetics. China has become the primary source of the ingredients that Mexican drug cartels use to manufacture methamphetamine, as well as a host of other synthetics. For example, online buyers are now finding their way to Chinese-made flakka. The hallucinogen, which is illegal in the U.S. but not in China, was tied to 18 deaths in a single Florida county recently. "Hands down China is No. 1" in selling synthetic drugs in the U.S., a federal law enforcement official told the newspaper.

- here's the FDA release
- get more from Interpol
- read the New York Times story