(Yicai Global) July 18 -- Drugs labeled as high-end German-made diet pills are produced in counterfeiting workshops in the countryside. The culprit behind the drug counterfeiting case involving CNY10 million (USD1.48 million) is a man born in the 1990s, who remote-controlled the counterfeiting operations. Police in Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu province has uncovered the drug counterfeiting case under the supervision of the ministry of public security (MPS). The case involves more than 20 provinces, with counterfeiting operations that are even more profitable than drug trafficking, reporters learned from the Suzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau.
In October last year, the platform governance unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. [NYSE:BABA], China's e-commerce giant, which uses big data models to monitor risks, detected a product called 'Shuliqing' claiming that it can help people lose weight, said Suzhou police at a press briefing. Alibaba's anti-counterfeiting task force conducted spot checks and confirmed that the product contains sibutramine, an illegal additive whose use is explicitly banned in China. Alibaba tipped the MPS, which assigned the case to its Suzhou bureau. The Suzhou bureau's environment, food and drug unit and Xiangcheng sub-bureau conducted joint operations to crackdown on the case. The photo shows a bag of capsule shells in the counterfeiting workshop.
Photo 3: On Jan. 11, 2017, Suzhou police caught a dozen suspects in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, and Xuzhou and Suzhou, both in Jiangsu, and demolished the sites where fake diet pills were produced, packaged and sold, confiscating over 30,000 boxes of counterfeit weight loss drugs including 'Shuzhiqing,' 'Jianzhida' and 'Primium US fat-burning element' and 1.5 tons of semi-finished products and raw materials. Shuliqing, which is marketed as so-called weight loss drugs imported from Germany, only costs a dozen yuan but could be sold for CNY300 on social media platforms after a numerous resales.
The culprit behind the CNY10 million drug counterfeiting case is a man named Liu born in the 1990s who lives in Shijiazhuang. According to Liu, he bought sibutramine, an illegal additive whose use is strictly banned in China, and remotely instructed a 47-year-old man named Qian, who is a jobless countryside man, to use filling machines to make drug capsules in a dirty rural workshop and use fake ID cards and telephone numbers to mail drugs. Liu asked Qian to try the medicines personally once a batch of drugs were produced to ensure that eating the medicine will not lead to death. However, it will cause bodily reactions such as getting thirsty and having insomnia and anorexia aimed at causing weight loss through unhealthy ways. The shabby counterfeiting workshop operated in residential properties.
Since some consumers suspect that the weight loss drugs are fake as they don't work as expected, Liu asked Qian to gradually double the content of sibutramine. With fake drugs, fake instructions and fake anti-counterfeit labels, such medicines were made look like German-imported diet pills 'Shuliqing' and Taiwan-imported weight loss drugs 'Jianzhida' through some packaging. China Central Television (CCTV) reported last year that a woman developed mental illness after taking fake diet pills. Qian, a suspect, is pointing to packaging materials for 'Shuliqing.'
Suzhou's food and drug regulator conducted spot checks and found that the samples contained sibutramine and phenolphthalein. China Food and Drug Administration has explicitly banned the production, sale and use of these two additives since 2010. Sibutramine is an appetite inhibitor that affects people's central nerve and its use could lead to high blood pressure, faster heart rate, anorexia, abnormal liver function and other serious side effects. Long-term use could could cause irreversible damages to human's intestinal nervous system. Qian bought a large number of fake 'anti-counterfeit labels' to post them on the boxes of fake diet pills to trick customers.
"I can't believe that selling fake diet pills could be more profitable than drug trafficking," said a police officer at the Suzhou police bureau's environment, food and drug unit. High profitability of selling counterfeit weight loss drugs is news to many. Wang can buy one bottle of 'Shuliqing' for CNY25 from Liu and sell it for CNY130, a profit margin of more than 400 percent, higher than that of drug trafficking. The counterfeiting workshop is also very dusty and fails all kinds of health standards and requirements on food and drug production.