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China Police Arrest More Than 1,900 People in Fake-Drug Hunt

Police in China arrested more than 1,900 people and seized about 1.16 billion yuan ($182 million) worth of counterfeit drugs and related goods amid a government crackdown in the world’s fastest-growing pharmaceuticals market.

The fake drugs seized were illegally advertised to treat illnesses including hypertension, diabetes, skin diseases and cancer, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement yesterday. More than 18,000 members of the police contributed to breaking up drug-counterfeit rings across the country, it said.

“The criminals have come up with new ways to conceal,” the ministry said in the statement. “Counterfeit drug crimes have still not been eradicated.”

Less than 1 percent of medicines in developed markets and as much as 30 percent or more in developing countries are fake, World Health Organization estimates show. China and India are the biggest suppliers of the counterfeits, which cause 700,000 deaths a year among malaria and tuberculosis sufferers alone, according to the Washington-based International Policy Network.

The statement didn’t specify whether the fake drugs were meant for the domestic or international market.

The Ministry of Public Security will offer as much as 50,000 yuan to anyone who contributes to uncovering fake medicine rings and operations, it said in the statement.

China criminalized the manufacture of counterfeit medicines last year and raised maximum penalties to the death sentence to try to contain illegal production.

Drug spending in China is forecast to rise at a compound annual rate of 19 percent to 22 percent in the five years to 2015, reaching as much as $125 billion, IMS Health Inc. said in a May 2011 report. That’s the fastest growth rate globally, according to the Parsippany, New Jersey-based researcher.

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