China is currently able to produce 1,500 types of drug substances, and for many of these, including penicillin and vitamin C, it is leading the world in terms of output, the Information Office of China’s State Council has reported.

At the end of 2007, 6,913 pharmaceutical enterprises were operating in China, of which 4,682 were producers of active pharmaceutical ingredients and preparations, says an Office white paper entitled Status Quo of Drug Supervision in China.

Chinese-made antibiotics, vitamins, hormones, antipyretics and analgesics, plus amino acids and alkaloid products, now account for considerable shares of international markets, while domestically-produced artemisinin is helping to combat malaria worldwide, and a number of botanical drugs such as berberine and colchicine are also being mass-produced, it says.

China is now producing over one billion doses a year of 41 types of vaccines against infection caused by 26 kinds of viruses and pathogenic bacteria. The country’s annual output of vaccines against common infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, measles, pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus can treat 500 million people, and it also provides vaccines to the World Health Organization (WHO) for use around the world, the report adds.

Profits up 43.6% in January-May

Earlier this month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reported that sales by the domestic drug industry reached 295.54 billion yuan in the first five months of 2008, a rise of 30.3% over January-May 2007, while its gross industrial output value increased 29% to 311.6 billion yuan.

The industry’s total profits in January-May 2008 soared 43.6% to total 27.8 billion yuan, although energy supply shortages and rising prices of raw materials meant that 1,390 companies reported a collective deficit of 2 billion yuan, up 4.8% on the like, year-earlier period, says the Commission.

Exports during the period rose to 22.9% to a value of 36.8 billion yuan, it adds.

- A report issued this month by Research and Markets forecasts that China’s domestic pharmaceutical market will grow 20% over the next 12 months, tapering off over the following five years but still averaging an annual 15% growth rate, and with sales of all pharmaceuticals in China – patented, generic and over-the-counter (OTC) – reaching a combined $74.9 billion in 2012.

Based on figures from the China Chamber of Commerce and Chinese Customs Statistics which report that pharmaceutical exports in 2007 rose 28.2% to $11.69 billion and imports grew 32.3% to $9.37 billion - giving a positive trade balance of $5.62 billion - nthe reports also forecasts that China’s imports and exports of pharmaceuticals will reach values of $39.66 billion and $30.33 billion, respectively, in 2012.