Alibaba data unit to offer voluntary drug tracking software

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AliHealth, the Hong Kong-listed online healthcare arm of Alibaba Group ($BABA), will offer a rejigged drug tracking software for China that allows consumers to check products voluntarily listed by drug companies. This comes as it seeks to recover from the China FDA dropping the system's mandatory use back in February.

Marbridge Consulting highlighted the new plan to use a barcode method drug tracking system, saying a new version could be released within a month and that it may also be offered to the food industry with fees to join waived for three years for new firms that sign up. Existing data on the previous system would also included at no cost, the firm said.

Consumers could use apps to authenticate purchases on Alibaba's platform as well as Tencent's WeChat service, according to the consulting firm. However, upkeep for data and administrative requirements will cost companies.

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China FDA has put out a request for comments on a new system to track drugs for counterfeiting, with pressure coming from Chinese leadership to crackdown harder on adulterated or illegally manufactured medicines.

The new plan for the software also comes after an April announcement by Alibaba that it had dropped plans to integrate its pharmacy business into its health unit and sell more drugs online, citing growing concerns over its regulatory landscape that could allow such e-commerce.

In April last year, Alibaba said it wanted to inject its pharmacy operations into AliHealth in a $2.5 billion deal to consolidate its healthcare enterprise and ride a boom in online health-related business, later testing a three-hour delivery of healthcare goods--including OTC drugs purchased online--across a number of China cities.

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