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New Drug Measures
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In a renewed effort to ensure drug safety and salvage its credibility, China's drug watchdog announced revised methods for drug registration and approval yesterday.

It vows to work for a more efficient and scientific system for drug registration, a healthy market order, and enhanced supervision of drug production.

According to Wu Zhen, deputy director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), the entire process for drug registration and approval will allow no opportunity for under-the-table deals. It will be open to public scrutiny.

To prevent the highly centralized power in drug approvals, that usually breeds corruption, a collective accountability system will also be in place.

A significant step toward plugging loopholes in drug registration at its very source, the move, together with the execution of SFDA's former head Zheng Xiaoyu on Tuesday, crowns the administration's on-going anti-corruption drive.

Zheng and his subordinate Cao Wenzhuang, the country's former drug registration head, are among a number of SFDA officials that have been ferreted out since the end of last year for taking bribes and dereliction of duty.

The officials had turned the country's medicine approval system into a money-making machine in the past few years in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies with disregard to their official duties and people's health.

They bent rules by giving the green light to the production of shoddy medicines that would have otherwise failed tests.

The malpractice cost dozens of lives last year. Public confidence in the national drug body also plunged.

Investigations into these scandals also brought to the surface some deep-rooted problems in the sector including random duplication of medicines and violations of production procedures.

Since then, the SFDA has taken a series of tough measures to crack down on corruption among its ranks and regulate the behavior of its staff.

As part of the national crusade on restoring public confidence in the entire sector, the newly promulgated measures hopefully serve to eliminate corruption and malpractice at the very root.

(China Daily July 12, 2007)

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