China has announced new regulations covering pharmaceutical donations from abroad, which include a strict ban on any biological products and any in-hospital preparations, the State Food and Drug Administration has announced.

Also unacceptable are medicines which have not been approved by the SFDA and foreign-made drugs and devices which have not received approval in their country of origin, or which are approved for use in clinical trials only, SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said in Beijing.

All donated drugs and medical equipment must be at least six months within their expiry dates, and severe penalties will be imposed on the donation of drugs which prove to be counterfeit or substandard, she added.

There are also strict controls on the Chinese agencies which can accept drug donations from overseas. The Red Cross Society of China, which is currently calling for money and supplies urgently to help deal with the damage caused to central, eastern and southern China by the heaviest snowfalls in decades, is allowed to do so. Drugs and other supplies may also legally be sent to the China Charity Federation and its branches, plus provincial and central departments of health and civil affairs.

Record spending on drug, food control
The SFDA has also announced that, during 2006-7, the central government provided a budget of 3.7 billion yuan (about $500 million) for drug and food supervision, which is more than the total funding which it for these purposes provided from 1998 to 2005.

The record spending has equipped 90% of provincial drug control departments, and 60% of those at city level, to conduct full-scale testing as part of the SFDA’s drive to improve all stages of the drug supervision process, in order to combat counterfeit drugs and keep consumer prices down, said Administration head Shao Mingli.

Speaking at the country’s annual working conference on the supervision of food and drug safety in Beijing, the SFDA head also announced a major programme of joint working with other government agencies to crack down on illegal on-line drug sales. The initiative will also provide support to some-widely used portals to help them self-police against illegal drug advertising.

China has five officially-authorised Internet drug sales sites, two of which are based in Beijing, with one each in the provinces of Liaoning and Shandong and another in Shanghai.

The conference was also addressed by Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi, who told delegates that the central government is planning to set up an on-line supervisory network, in order to ensure the supply of widely-used pharmaceuticals and enable the public to access them easily and at affordable prices. She also emphasised the need to ensure safe supplies of medicines and foods in August, during the Olympic Games, to Beijing, the host city, and the five co-host mainland cities of Qingdao, Qinghuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang and Tianjin.