Chemical substances that may cause severe side-effects have been detected in eight counterfeit healthcare products, including weight-loss pills, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) has said.

Sibutramine, phenolphthalein and estazolam were among the chemicals found in the products, the SFDA had said in a statement yesterday.

Studies show that sibutramine and phenolphthalein may cause high blood pressure and breathing problems, as well as lead to severe cardiovascular disease. Diet pills containing sibutramine were banned in October 2010, according to two previous SFDA announcements, state-run Xinhua news agency has reported.

Estazolam, a prescription drug used only for the short-term treatment of insomnia, is said to cause dependence, dizziness, drowsiness and coordination problems.

Random sampling

The State Food and Drug Administration said that the counterfeit products were detected through random sampling conducted in drug stores nationwide and were largely manufactured by companies in south China’s city of Guangzhou.

It vowed to hand down severe punishments for the companies and will refer those that may have committed crimes to law enforcement bodies, the statement said.

Recently, intensified efforts were initiated in the country to prevent the manufacture and sale of counterfeit drugs.

Electronic monitoring network

The SFDA said that its electronic monitoring network now covers one-third of the country’s pharmaceutical products.

The system enables supervisory departments and the public to check the manufacturer, size and design, production certificate and expiration date of certain products with a unique 20-digit one-dimensional bar code.

The checking process can be done via telephone, short message or the Internet, according to SFDA official Mr Wang Yingli.

The network began operations in October 2007, with stupefacient and psychotropic medicines being the first batch placed under its monitoring.

Mr Wang said that the network will include imported products this year and monitoring of all drugs circulated in the country will be realised by 2015.

(This article was published on July 6, 2012)
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