China rounds up counterfeiters as the FDA boosts its oversight there

China agreed this month to allow the U.S. FDA to send more people there so it can boost its oversight of Chinese drug production. But as if to prove that it has the situation under control, Chinese authorities this weekend reported rounding up 1,300 suspected counterfeiters and confiscating $362 million worth of fake drugs and raw materials.

The raids were reported this weekend by the state news agency Xinhua, according to Reuters. It said the seized counterfeits, which were for conditions ranging from cold and flu products for children to heart meds, had been advertised online.

China is identified by the Washington-based International Policy Network as one of the world's biggest sources of counterfeit drugs. Since 2008, the FDA, Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service have been pursuing Bo Jiang, a Chinese national they say is the head of one of the largest rings of online counterfeiting. The country is also a thorn in the side of Western countries because so many of the online websites selling fakes are in China, out of their reach. In June, Chinese authorities said the government was starting a 6-month crackdown on counterfeiting. Without giving a source, Xinhua reported that police have shut down 140 websites and online pharmacies in 29 provinces since then, Reuters reported. In March, Chinese authorities said they had prosecuted more than 8,000 people last year for selling counterfeits, 5 times as many as in 2011.

In 2008, China pledged to get tough on its illegal drug production after raw heparin from there killed dozens of U.S. dialysis patients. The public furor also pushed the FDA to pay more attention to foreign suppliers and to ask for more money to locate inspectors in countries that pose the greatest risks to the U.S. drug supply. Congress kicked in more money last year, but China has been blocking visas for new inspectors. Vice President Joe Biden took the matter up during his recent visit there and secured a pledge to let the inspectors in. The FDA plans to add 10 drug and 9 food inspectors to the staff of 9 it already has in the country.

- here's the Reuters story

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