(CBN Global) March 21 -- An illegal vaccine case uncovered this month in Jinan, capital of China's eastern Shandong province, "reveals that the enforcement of drug regulatory coding in China is flawed by significant loopholes," Mr. Cao Jian, research fellow at the Health Management Research Center of Tsinghua University, told CBN.
The government had aimed to crack down on counterfeiters and the second-hand drugs market by introducing a tracking system that uses barcodes, but what happened in Shandong indicates that the system "cannot ensure effective regulation throughout the drug (circulation) process" from factory to retail outlet, said Mr. Cao.
Shandong police discovered CNY570 million (USD88 million) worth of illegal vaccines. The suspect, on probation for a previous conviction for dealing in vaccines, and her medical school graduate daughter, bought 25 infant and adult vaccines from online wholesalers and other illegal sources and sold them in 24 provinces and municipalities in violation of cold-chain storage requirements.
Unlike past cases where physical harm resulted from the sale of poor-quality vaccines, the Shandong incident involves large quantities of vaccines leaving production facilities through illegal channels and being circulated in contravention of the law.
This is not the first controversy involving the coding system. In January, the China Food and Drug Administration was prosecuted for "violations of the law in enforcing drug regulatory codes," giving rise to debate over the need for the scheme and whether its operator Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd., a unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., is involved in unfair competition.
The CFDA in January last year required all medicines in China to be included in the drug regulatory coding system. Alibaba opened an online retail pharmaceutical business before that. On February 20, the CFDA suspended its cooperation with Alibaba over the barcode-reading system.