The Chinese agency in charge of the fight against counterfeit drugs has announced a new initiative to crack down on the trafficking of illegal medications over the internet, according to the Global Times.
The State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) announced it new campaign at a press conference in Beijing. Wang Lifeng, the director of the SFDA's department of supervision, stated that the focus of the new anti-counterfeit drug campaign would be on monitoring search engines.
He further stated that because it is difficult to detect and keep track of the numerous websites that sell drugs illegally, the most efficient means of monitoring illegal online pharmaceutical transactions is through the search engines that direct consumers to the illegitimate websites.
"We will intensify our monitoring on search access services and urge them to rectify their illegal behavior," Wang Lifeng said during the press conference.
Along with the announcement of the new campaign, the SFDA released statistics on past online crackdowns. Out of nearly 300 websites that have had their licenses revoked in the past year, 66 were shut down for selling and spreading information about counterfeit drugs. The illegitimate websites primarily trafficked in drugs aimed at treating diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatism and sexually transmitted diseases.
Currently, only 27 websites in China possess the certificate that validates individual transactions of medications. The certificates last for five years before they must be renewed.
According to Wang Lifeng, major search engines that will be monitored as part of the new initiative include Baidu.com and Sina.com.
A representative from Baidu.com told the news source that her company's profits depend on how effectively they promote their clients' websites, but she stated that the search engine always evaluates the clients' products' quality and suitability before offering preferential promotion.
"The funds the illegal websites invest in the search access providers is a major reason why so many networks promote the fraudulent information online," Wang Zhenhua, a Beijing-based lawyer, told the source.
Wang Zhenhua also stated that the most efficient way to fight counterfeit drug sales online lies not in monitoring search engines but in increasing availability of drugs in person.
"Providing quality-guaranteed drugs at a reasonable and acceptable price to the patients in drug stores and hospitals is the wisest way to reduce the number of online drug purchasers," he said.