In addition to their concerns about the high costs of medications, a survey released last Monday by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily indicated that 72.7 percent of the 827 people surveyed were concerned about drug safety.
The result is likely to be linked to the fake drug scandal of the Qiqihar No.2 Pharmaceutical Co in late April this year when 11 people lost their lives. An investigation discovered that an Armillarisni A injection manufactured by the company in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was fake. By May 19 another four medicines produced by the firm were confirmed as being forgeries.
At the beginning of this year in Singapore there were incidents involving the use of a Bausch & Lomb eye product that caused alarm in China. Seven people who used the product suffered the serious fungal eye infection fusarium keratitis. All those who contracted the infection wear contact lenses.
Since May last year, there had been 19 cases of Singaporeans contracting the eye complaint and 18 of them were users of the Bausch & Lomb's ReNu contact lens cleaning solution. Soon after this, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Chengdu stopped selling ReNu. On June 9 Bausch & Lomb confirmed there were problems with their eye product that could lead to infections.
The survey showed that 88.8 percent of respondents were concerned about the possibility of similar incidents reoccurring. However, it seems people tend not to have strong feelings on drug quality but are more concerned about the cost of medications.
"We consumers don't know much about this," complained a SOE worker surnamed Yang to China Youth Daily. "Sometimes the drug I buy doesn't work and I don't know if it's a drug quality problem. I'll pay more attention to this."
Actually Chinese consumers do care about drug quality but their main interest seems to be in the pharmaceutical companies that produce medications. The survey showed 65.9 percent prefer medicines produced by large-scale pharmaceutical companies and 40.7 percent only trusted big manufacturers. But the incident with the Qiqihar No.2 Pharmaceutical Co, a large drugs manufacturer, resulted in 35.8 percent of respondents indicating they were loosing confidence even with the large producers.
"I don't know which drugs company is large or small," said Mr. Sheng who was part of the survey. "What I've heard most about is the Harbin No.6 Pharmaceutical Co as TV carries lots of advertising about it."
The survey also revealed that 46.2 percent of people prefer to get their medicines from big hospitals and they took it strictly according to their prescriptions. And 39.8 percent said they followed the instructions of their doctors.
But incidents related to Qiqihar and other big brands have exposed loopholes in the country's drugs management and supervision.
Mr. Sheng held that the consumers have no obligation to get to know background information on drugs companies. If there was a need it was because of negligence on the part of government departments. The survey indicated that 88.4 percent of the respondents felt that the Qiqihar drug incident resulted from negligence on the part of government. Drug ingredients and the effects a particular medication may have on a patient are not understood by ordinary people, and the drug administration should play its role.
The survey was conducted between May 29 and June 26, and 827 valid questionnaires were returned. Of these 358 were mail questionnaires and 469 online. Of the respondents 76.6 percent were male, 80.8 percent were under 35 and 79.3 percent were graduates from universities and polytechnics.
(China.org.cn by Guo Xiaohong, July 17, 2006)