Just two months after the top Chinese food and drug regulator was sentenced to death, a second regulator has been given a similar sentence for accepting more than $300,000 in bribes. The first official is still facing the death penalty.
In fact, the Chinese courts have been busy, sentencing four other regulators to long sentences in prison. Many see this as a sign that China wants to be taken seriously in its bid to clean up their food and drug problems. Although the US has been hit hard with cat and dog food recalls related to fake Chinese foods and many other fake ingredients, Chinese citizens have been suffering silently. Experts believe the harsh sentences are actually aimed at the domestic audience.
The drug approval department in the Chinese food and drug agency under scrutiny approved 14,000 drugs in just three months — with only about a dozen staff members.
From the International Herald Tribune:
Cao Wenzhuang, who until 2005 was in charge of drug registration approvals at the State Food and Drug Administration, was accused of accepting over $300,000 in bribes from two pharmaceutical companies and helping undermine the public’s confidence in an agency that is supposed to be safeguarding the nation’s health.
Cao’s sentence was handed down by the No. 1 Intermediate Court in Beijing, less than two months after the same court sentenced Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration to death for accepting $850,000 in bribes to help steer drug companies through various approval processes.
Cao, however, was given the death sentence with a two-year reprieve, a lighter penalty that may allow the 45-year-old to have his sentence commuted to life in prison.
Experts say the drug industry has been mired in corruption for years, and that one reason is that until recently the State Food and Drug Administration - the country’s highest-ranking drug agency - was corrupt from top to bottom.
In 2005, for instance, the state-run news media reported that the authorities had banned 114,000 unlicensed drug manufacturers and demolished 461 illegal factories.
China’s drug industry boom also worries global drug makers, who say the world is being inundated with fake and potentially deadly counterfeit drugs that are being exported from China.
Zweig, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said, however, that the sentences handed down recently were aimed more at the domestic audience, which is at greatest risk of being harmed by counterfeit or substandard drugs made in China.
“They are clearly responding to domestic pressure,” Zweig said. “These drugs are really harming the domestic sector.”