China denies accusations of fake drug exports to Africa

By Yuan Jirong in Dar es Salaam, and Chang Meng and Yan Shuang in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-9 1:03:01

Chinese pharmaceutical firms and medical experts in Africa have denied a Western report which labeled China a suspected source of counterfeit drugs which were holding back the fight against malaria in the continent.

UK-based newspaper the Guardian published an article last month claiming that a large quantity of Chinese malaria drugs exported to African countries were fake and "not life-saving at all."

A Global Times reporter learned that Chinese drugs enter the African market either through national foreign aid programs, or foreign trade. The two major channels of foreign trade are public procurement by international organizations, and pharmaceutical companies setting up sales branches in target countries.

Drugs qualified for public procurement have to be certified by the World Health Organization (WHO), while drugs exported to the continent have to follow strict supervision and examination procedures conducted by both sides.

Tanzania is one of the countries that suffer the most from malaria. Mohamed Ali, chief of the Tanzania Malaria Control Program, told the Global Times that in the public sector, the only ways Chinese-made malaria drugs can get into the country are through public procurement by the WHO and the Tanzanian government. In the private sector, local dealers import the drug from companies with certifications issued by the country's food and drugs authority.

"It's hard to believe the drugs could arrive on cargo trucks as the Guardian reported, we use air transportation and all of them, no matter whether they're from the public sector or the private, have to be strictly examined at the airport and customs," Ali said.

A marketing manager surnamed Zha with the Guangzhou-based pharmaceutical company Artepharm, told the Global Times Tuesday that their malaria drug, Artequick is registered with the State Food and Drug Administration and is also certified in Tanzania and Nigeria.

"It has to be examined by third-party institutions at every single step of the export process, including packaging, customs clearance and delivery before it reaches the patients," she said, adding that their product is welcomed in those countries due to its reasonable price and effectiveness.

A marketing manager surnamed Kissandu with Holleypharm Tanzania Ltd, another Chinese company which is certified in Tanzania, told the Global Times that Chinese drugs only take up 5 to 10 percent of the market share in the country.

A doctor surnamed Bushari with the Mmoja Hospital in Dar es Salaam told the Global Times that Chinese drugs are effective and fast-acting, and have far fewer side effects such as headaches and vomiting. "I recommend my patients use them and I use them myself," he said.

"I've never heard of fake Chinese malaria drugs. Chinese drugs are of good quality and effective and they are very popular among locals," said Guo Dong, a Chinese businessman who runs textile plants in Uganda and Kenya.

Ouyang Daobing, a diplomat at China's embassy in Uganda, told the Global Times that the allegations were baseless and biased. "China has provided millions of doses of malaria drugs to Uganda and has received compliments from the government and citizens. Each year the Uganda government requests new aid from China. Fake drugs could not mingle into the official distribution and sales channels under the government's strict supervision," said Ouyang.

Charys Nuhu Ugullum, acting chief of Tanzania's food and drug authority, told the Global Times that although Tanzania conducts strict supervision and inspections of malaria drugs, fake drugs still occupy 20 percent of the market share, and most of them come from counterfeiting producers in Africa, or are imported from other continents by illegal dealers.

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