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Ensuring drug safety
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Medicine can be as important as food. So its safety can never be over-emphasized.

The execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), in July this year for taking bribes for approving licenses for new drugs, signifies the country's determination to crackdown on irregularities in the entire process from approval of new drugs to their manufacture and sale.

The action to overhaul the drug market has achieved expected results, according to an official from SFDA at yesterday's press conference. Altogether 7,300 applications for new drugs have been rejected, nearly 300 plants manufacturing drugs and producing medical appliances closed, and 120 approvals of advertisements for drugs revoked in the past 18 months.

We get a double message from these figures: the overhaul has indeed made great achievements; but it also shows how chaotic the entire drug market is.

The clearing up of the multiple titles for one type of drug is a serious task among others in the overhaul. More efforts are needed to effectively check the unhealthy tendency of multiplying different versions of the same drug just by altering the combination of its ingredients. Such a practice has proved to be rife among doctors bribed by drug salespeople to prescribe the drugs they sell. It also increases the possibility of overuse of antibiotics and other drugs by patients.

Despite the great achievements, the battle will continue between the watchdogs and those drug manufacturers and salespeople. This is a universal problem rather than one unique to China. It challenges our government's capability to establish a sound system to stop inferior and unsafe drugs from entering the market, and punish those who attempt to benefit at the expense of people's lives.

We are happy to see that the overhaul nationwide also spares no efforts in establishing a permanent monitoring and supervision mechanism. This is exactly where hope lies for an orderly drug market.

(China Daily December 4, 2007)

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