China has announced an initial $1.7bn investment to bolster its currently questionable ability to effectively monitor the quality of the food and drugs manufactured within its borders.
The declaration is part of a concerted attempt the country has been making to remedy its international reputation as a producer of unsafe and counterfeit drugs.
The allocated funding, provided by both the central and local governments, will be spent on improving safety monitoring infrastructure over the next three to five years, State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) spokesperson Yan Jiangying said today in a Beijing press conference, relayed via webcast.
Yan indicated that during the next three years more funding will also become available to allow even further investment in the country's food and drug safety industry.
Specific objectives the investment will target were reported by Chinese news outlet Shanghai Daily:
Relocating and rebuilding the National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products in Beijing; rebuilding and equipping biological labs in 16 drug control institutes; equipping 10 quality control centres with medical instruments; establishing a monitoring system for the adverse reactions of drugs that will link a national centre with 31 local branches; and local infrastructure construction projects that include SFDA offices and labs in western and central China.
Meanwhile, Yan also said that new laws are being drafted that will tighten controls on the import and export of drugs and medical devices in China and facilitate the recall of hazardous products.
The country also plans to wage a campaign against websites that are involved in the illegal selling of medications - many of which are fake.
China has been continually taking steps of late toward drug safety reforms as it vies to improve its tarnished reputation in this area. One high profile move was the execution in June of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former director of the SFDA after he was convicted of corruption in the drug approval process, which ultimately led to the death of Chinese citizens after substandard products reached the market.
Other recent actions have included pledges to forge closer ties with US regulators, among others, as well as beginning to conduct spot checks on facilities and product quality and shutting down some dodgy manufacturing plants.
In the effort to clean up its act, the country is facing a mountainous task, with corruption, shoddy production and counterfeiting being widespread, and progress toward extensive reform will inevitably be slow.