China in overdrive on illegal vaccine sales probe

Chinese leadership moved into high-gear to round up dozens of suspects linked to the illegal sale of vaccines in Shandong province, drawing in comment from the State Council and noting World Health Organization interest in the incident on the China FDA website.

China Daily noted that China's top prosecuting entity, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, has been assigned to handle the case.

China.org.cn said that 37 suspects are being held in a case that involves the sales of 12 vaccines, 2 immune globulins and one therapeutic product to health clinics and other centers led by a mother-and-daughter team who were rounded up last month.

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Three pharmaceutical companies are being investigated by police, China-org.cn said, citing the work group handling the case, which is said to involve RMB570 million ($88 million) in products illegally sold since 2011.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has even "given important instructions on the illegal vaccine business in China."

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

Li, in a note posted on the State Council website, directed the China FDA, National Health and Family Planning Commission, and Ministry of Public Security to "enhance coordination to investigate the use and circulation thoroughly. They should also respond to public concern in time, severely punish illegal behavior and hold related officials accountable."

China FDA, for its part, noted that the World Health Organization is watching closely--a key concern for a country that wants to ramp up vaccine production and feed into the global supply chain as a pre-qualified supplier to the United Nations body running major vaccination programs.

To that end, China FDA named the individuals rounded up, and the companies so far identified as suppliers on its website.

Earlier this week, two China FDA notices on the case identified the episode as "criminal acts" and ordered unspecified companies to help public security investigators to identify the "variety, quantity, batch number, and the flow of buying and selling the vaccines" in the probe or face "serious punishment."

The severe warnings comes as China FDA Commissioner Bi Jingquan said last month the regulator was aiming for the "most stringent standards" for food, drug and device safety along with the "most severe punishment" for fraud.

After the chemical melamine was found in local infant formula brands in 2007 that caused infant deaths and serious illness for many children, China executed the top food and drug regulator at the time, Zheng Xiaoyu, for his role in the scandal.

- here's a story from China Daily
- one from China.org.cn
- the take from Shanghai Daily
- as well as a State Council statement
- a China FDA World Health Organization note (Chinese language)
- and a China FDA update (Chinese language)

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