The State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), China's drug watchdog, has warned the public against buying pharmaceutical products from illegal online drugstores.
Those websites operators who do not obtain proper licenses from the drug administration are illegal and will be held to account, said Yan Jiangying, spokeswoman of the SFDA at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
The administration grants two kinds of licenses, one to websites providing solely information on drugs, the other to those trading online.
By the end of July this year, 1,211 websites had received licenses on providing information on drugs and only nine had been licensed to sell drugs or act as brokers, according to the SFDA. Of the nine, only four are allowed to sell drugs "over the counter" and the remaining five act as brokers between sellers and buyers.
"Every website is required to display its license at the top of its website so that consumers can check and validate the license number with the list on the SFDA official website," Yan said.
"The administration will work with the Ministry of Information Industry to crack down on illegal drug websites. We also expect more citizens to tip us off if they find such websites," she said.
As online shopping becomes more and more popular, more online drugstores have emerged, some claiming to sell imported drugs at lower prices and even selling banned drugs like anesthetics.
The drug administration in Shanghai has set up a special team to monitor the drug business on the Internet.
It is convenient to buy drugs online, especially for some patients who want to protect their privacy, but it is hard to guarantee the quality and safety of drugs if the websites are not registered by the authority and evade our monitoring, said an official from the administration.
"For some illegal drug websites, all they need to start up business are a computer and a telephone. You don't know where their drugs come from. They not only threaten the health of consumers but also harm legal drugstores like us," said Yi Hui, deputy manager-general of Shanghai Pharmacy Ltd. which runs a legal online drugstore.
(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2007)