Hong Kong authorities make biggest fake Chinese medicine bust in three years
Hong Kong Customs has seized HKD 500,000 in counterfeit traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the largest bust of its kind in three years. The counterfeiters infringed on three Hong Kong TCM brands - Wong To Yick, Bull Head and Nan Lien – and one mainland Chinese brand, Beijing Tong Ren Tang. The medicines are used primarily to treat joint pain, rheumatic arthritis or coughing.
Counterfeiters sold the fake TCM for up to 50% less than the standard retail price. They justified low prices to consumers by telling them the products were genuine parallel-import goods intended for export to low-income African and Southeast Asian countries.
The five suspects - all Hong Kongers - were released on bail. Under Hong Kong's Trade Descriptions Ordinance, they could be sent to jail for up to five years and hit with a maximum fine of HK$500,000.
Authorities have yet to say whether the counterfeit medicine is harmful. Lab results should provide some answers. But in the bigger picture, fake TCM damages the industry's image - an image that isn't the best to begin with. To be sure, in the area of alternative treatment, TCM enjoys greater recognition globally than ever before. But TCM has not been scientifically proven as a viable means of treatment for serious illnesses. TCM's use of the body parts of critically endangered animals like rhinos doesn't help its cause either.
In December 2001, China's state drug agency reported that more than half of traditional Chinese medicine used in the country was fake or substandard. We don't have evidence that the situation has improved significantly since. Worse still, China is exporting its bogus TCM worldwide, from Africa to Southeast Asia.
Earlier this month, Cambodia's Ministry of Health warned consumers in a press release that two traditional Chinese medicine products sold in the country, Tong Mai Dan and Zhuan Guwan, are counterfeits that contain the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone. Without elaborating, the Ministry said the fake medicine could affect the health of consumers.
The ministry requested that Cambodia's Drugs Department, Health Department officials, pharmacies and TCM shops recall the products so they can be destroyed.
“If any pharmacies and traditional medicine stores do not remove, continue to sell and distribute these two counterfeit Chinese products, they will be punished under the Law on Drug Management,” the statement said.