Online Medicine Under Stricter Control

New regulations to control medical information and products on the Internet come into force today.

Websites have to make sure online information and products are legal, reliable and safe, according to the regulations issued by the State Drug Administration.

To protect the interests of customers, the administration says only websites that have its permission will be allowed to provide such services.

These can be divided into two categories -- profit-making ones and non-profit-making ones.

Information provided includes advice about medicines and medical equipment.

Websites are also being urged to only offer products which are legal under Chinese law.

Early last year, the administration announced that online sales of over-the-counter drugs would be suspended because the business was difficult to supervise.

However, because of the strong appeal of the market, the State Economic and Trade Commission selected several medicine websites to pilot e-commerce in this field in the middle of last year.

The administration issued regulations to control this website trade last June.

Pilot websites have been set up in Guangdong, Fujian, Beijing and Shanghai.

The drug e-commerce business is carried out online by drug producers, re-sellers and consumers, although certain medicine is not allowed to be sold over the Internet.

Retailers can only sell over-the-counter drugs listed by the administration to consumers online, according to the new regulations.

As a medium of exchange, the website itself can not directly participate in drug sales.

According to a latest official statistics, there are 22.5 million Internet surfers who, on average, spent one hour per week on Internet last year. About 12 percent of them logged on to medical and drug pages.

About 23.7 percent of them said they are not satisfied with medical and drug services offered on the Internet.

With increasing demand from consumers and producers, and the healthy development of the country's Internet, analysts believe China's burgeoning online e-commerce will thrive.

(China Daily 01/31/01)

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