Faulty vaccines in China raise fears over safety of local products

Chinese citizens erupt in fury after after major vaccine maker Changsheng Biotechnology violates standards in making rabies vaccines for humans

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Adam Muspratt

A scandal over faulty rabies vaccines has sparked heated debate over China's ailing pharmaceutical industry, with many questioning the safety of locally produced drugs.

China's State Drug Administration - after being tipped off  - launched an investigation into Chinas second largest rabies vaccine manufacturer Changsheng Biotechnology. The regulatory body found that that the $3.5 billion company, Changsheng Biotechnology, had falsified its production data,

State-run Xinhua news agency reports that at least 113,000 doses of the company's rabies vaccine are affected. There have been no recorded incidents caused by the vaccine, but Changsheng Biotechnology has decided to halt production recall the product. Stock in the pharmaceutical company has fallen for six days straight, wiping $1 billion in the value of its market worth.

This will come as a double blow to Chinas pharmaceutical industry, with Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical recently recalling a blood and heart drug in the United States after it had been found that it contained cancer inducing impurities. Both of these scandals have brought the credibility of the Chinese government and the pharmaceutical industry into question, putting a risk to China's ambitions to play a great role in the worldwide pharmaceutical scene. 

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The outrage was widely expressed on China’s social media platforms and forums. One of its most popular platforms, WeChat,  vaccine appeared in more than 321 million searches. Meanwhile, attempts to censor the scandal has led to Chinese blockchain enthusiasts pushing for blockchain adoption in the pharma industry, so production can be monitored without the possibility of falsified records. 

This particular event has struck a nerve amongst the population as the drug is predominantly used by children and babies. Those with long memories will remember when the 2008 baby formula scandal where tens of thousands of infants were given melamine adulterated products. The angered population turned their back on local products and looked overseas causing shortages in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. The domestic dairy sector still hasn't fully recovered. 

The outrage has resulted in billions of shares being wiped of Chinese vaccine makers across the spectrum. As a result, the country’s Premier Li Keqiang has slammed the lack of due diligence and has declared a measure of justice will be served, stating that a "moral red line" has been crossed. 

The President, Xi Jinping echoed his sentiments on television. He said, “We will resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that endanger the safety of peoples’ lives, resolutely punish lawbreakers according to the law, and resolutely and severely criticize dereliction of duty in supervision,”

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China’s pharmaceutical industry has been exposed to a slew of scandals recently, and with a population already conscious of fake or faulty domestic products, widespread dismissal of local drugs. may ensue. No doubt this has undermined the government's plans to rebuild trust in domestic products and increase the pedigree of Chinese pharmaceuticals abroad. For multinational vaccine makers, this may present an opportunity to increase their market share in China. 

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