China to take new steps to clean up drug industry

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BEIJING, Nov 8 (Reuters) China and the United States will seal a cooperation pact next month to enhance drug safety and Beijing will launch a new sweep against the false advertising of medicines, China's drug watchdog said today.

The quality and safety of Chinese goods has come under international scrutiny following scandals involving tainted or fake products ranging from toothpaste and cough syrup to pet food and toys.

China has promised to crack down on rogue exporters as well as dealing with serious domestic safety problems, which are exacerbated in the drug industry by false advertising.

The deal with the United States would be signed during a bilateral dialogue in December, State Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Yan Jiangying told a regular news conference, without elaborating.

Yan said in January her department would launch a new campaign against rampant illicit drug advertising and will remove offending products from store shelves.

In the first nine months of this year China discovered 33,130 illicit commercials that either exaggerated drug effects or illegally used celebrities to promote them, Yan said.

The watchdog will publish a quarterly report of the most serious offenders on its Web site (www.sda.gov.cn), while its subsidiaries at provincial level will do the same and much more frequently, she added.

The regulator's own Web site has recently been targeted, with a company setting up a near perfect fake portal masquerading as the watchdog's to promote a diabetes medication.

''It's a problem that the whole world is facing,'' Yan said.

''Though we've been boosting our efforts, new ones keep popping up like guerrillas.'' China would also launch a special campaign that will last through August when the Beijing Olympics open, targeting the illegal production and sale of performance-enhancing drugs, she said.

REUTERS GT BD1230

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