When in doubt, blame the media. Chinese officials say the country's pharma exports are safe, and they vilified reports of mass counterfeiting. "There should be no more sensational tactics or attacks," said Bian Zhenjia, deputy commissioner of the State Food and Drug Administration at a press briefing. And, he said, "I cannot agree with some foreign media allegations that China has become a major exporter of fake drugs." But at the same time, other Chinese officials admitted that drug fakery had become "rampant" and pledged stronger punishment for "accomplices."
At the briefing, Bian contended that the Chinese government has "always" cracked down on fake drugs. Any substandard drugs or APIs sourced in China are coming from unregistered suppliers, he said, so it's the foreign buyers' fault for choosing unauthorized companies. "If foreign manufacturers and distributors purchase drug substances and formulas from one of China's 4,708 pharmaceutical producers," he said, "there would not be any quality problem."
China has been at the center of several food and drug-product scandals in recent years, some of which--like a fake cancer drug--played out domestically. Other tainted and/or faked products hit the international scene. Chinese regulators have indeed cracked down, sometimes severely, on suppliers involved in faking or adulterating drugs. Jail time isn't unusual; the death penalty not unheard of.
But funnily enough, the Chinese law enforcement officials say manufacturing and selling fake or substandard meds "has become rampant in recent years," the state-run Xinhua news service reports. "They seriously harm the people's health, disturb the healthy development of the pharmaceutical industry in China and severely damage the image of the country internationally," said Xiong Xuanguo, VP of the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
Now, Xiong says, fake or substandard meds will draw even more severe punishment. The Supreme People's Court reinterpreted a ruling to extend criminal liability to people and companies that help distribute and mail "problem medicines." People promoting and/or advertising the meds can be treated as criminal accomplices.