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Alibaba, Pfizer fighting fake drugs

By Ren Xiaojin and Zhong Nan in Beijing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-03-28 13:04

Targeting counterfeit drugs in the Chinese pharmaceutical market, Pfizer China, a branch of the US-based drug manufacturer Pfizer Inc, announced it would partner with the country's internet giant Alibaba and enable consumers to verify the authenticity of their drugs through QR code scanning.

Counterfeit drugs have long been disrupting the Chinese medicine market, especially over-the-counter products and health supplements that are the easiest to forge.

Viagra, the world's first oral treatment for erectile dysfunction, is cited as an example. Last September, police in Nanjing captured a criminal group that specialized in making fake Viagra.

Pfizer China said Viagra, one of its pillar products, was put on Alibaba's Ali Health Reliable Code platform to enhance drug safety and prevent potential drug forgeries, before the country's Consumer Rights Day of March 15.

Through the platform, every Viagra pill a consumer purchases can be traced by scanning the code on the tablet. It means that from now on, consumers of Viagra can instantly tell if a pill is authentic.

"The development of the internet has offered a loophole for counterfeit drugs, it worries internet users about the authenticity of the drugs they buy," said Ren Xiaoxiu, director of Pfizer China's national retail business. "Many markets in the world, including China, have seen a rising number of counterfeit medicines that can severely damage male consumers' health."

Ren said even though the public's awareness of the dangers of fake drugs is rising, there are few ways to prevent it.

In an effort to tackle counterfeit drugs, Ali Health developed an open, market-oriented third-party retrospective platform based on e-code's "Reliable Code" in 2016.

"The platform is compatible with the traceability standards of China's Product Quality Electronic Regulatory Network and China's Drug Electronic Regulatory Network, which provide data storage management services of the National Drug Electronic Regulatory Code to a large number of pharmaceutical companies," said Wang Peiyu, vice-president of Ali Health.

"The launch of Viagra on this platform also marks another instance of in-depth cooperation between Pfizer China and Ali Health and helps consumers easily identify the authenticity of drugs through simple steps," he said.

Jiang Hui, director of the Andrology Department at Peking University Third Hospital Reproductive Center, warned that currently there were large numbers of fake products being circulated in the men's health market.

"Patients who buy counterfeit medicines from dodgy shops or non-official vendors can face the potential threat of serious health issues," he said.

Jiang reminded consumers that counterfeit drugs are most likely made in environments that are far from being qualified drug factories.

"The materials they use probably couldn't pass safety standards tests. The hazards include cardiovascular disease and others," he said.

He encouraged consumers to not only use the Reliable Code to check the authenticity of the drug, but to also buy from a legitimate vendor.

"The cooperation is only a pilot program between Pfizer China and Ali Health," said Ren. "With the rich experience Pfizer has gained over the years developing drugs for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, anti-infection, central nervous system diseases, cancer, urinary and other fields, we hope we can convey the basic knowledge toward different diseases through plain language."

Ren said they wanted to raise awareness of diseases and standardize medicine's authenticity verification process via the Reliable Code.

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