Chinese unethical practices affect global health
GLOBAL HEALTH UNDER ATTACK: China has caused immense damage to global health through man-made viruses and pandemic disinformation; fake drugs; dangerous food adulterants; masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and faulty diagnostic kits; ineffective vaccines; substandard health equipment; manipulation of WHO, scientific experts and publications; and now ransomware attacks against healthcare facilities. Our health is also affected by pollution and climate change for which China is the biggest contributor. Chinese wet markets are a source of zoonotic infections and a cause of biodiversity destruction through the extinction of endangered species. Traditional Chinese medicine currently promoted by the Chinese government contains parts of 36 animal species, several of which are endangered, including tigers, rhinos, black bears, musk deer, and seahorses.
FALSE DRUGS WITH FALSE LABEL: The opening statement of an article in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, titled “Counterfeit Drug Trade in China is Booming” Says it All: Government in June 2009. Manufactured and shipped from China, they bore an unexpected label: “Made in India”. Even the counterfeits were rigged. It was a new low. Dr Dora Akunyili, then head of the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said: “Counterfeit drugs are mass murder; it is one of the greatest atrocities of our time. It is a form of terrorism against public health as well as an act of economic sabotage. An American Enterprise Institute research team has found China largely responsible for fake drugs attributed to India in 20 countries where samples were collected. 80% of anti-HIV drugs for the developing world and almost half of antimalarials and antibiotics are made in India and popular brands are counterfeited by the Chinese. NAFDAC has discovered that vast Chinese counterfeit drug criminal networks employing local people have infiltrated all supply and distribution chains across continents. A fake copy of an Indian antimalarial drug called Lonart DS from China’s Shenzhen Free Trade Zone was just one example. Fake medicines lead to death instead of a cure.
ADULT INFANT MILK AND BAKED FOODS: Echo Huang spoke about the infant milk tragedy in China in 2008, causing kidney stones in which “a chemical compound called melamine, used in the production of plastic and fertilizer that had made its way into infant formula. A total of 22 companies were involved in the tainted milk scandal, including state-owned dairy company Yili, a supplier to the Beijing Olympics, and Sanlu, which started as a state-owned company based in northern Hebei Province in 1996, and had formed a joint venture in 2005 with New Zealand dairy company Fonterra. “The level of melamine in the powder was found to be as high as 2,560 mg / kg – the tolerable daily intake for the chemical compound is 0.63 mg / kg of body weight, according to the level set by the Food and US Drug Administration. ” The adulterant has been “traced back to ‘protein powder’ supplied by local farmers, who added melamine to their milk to increase protein levels and pass nutritional tests.” Cyanuric acid, a structural analogue of melamine, also increases the apparent protein content of dairy products and has been used as an adulterant. Many countries have halted all imports of Chinese dairy products. Later, in Japan and South Korea, melamine was found in eggs of Chinese origin and frozen fried chicken due to its use as animal feed. Malaysia and Taiwan have found baked foods contaminated with melamine in cooking ammonia (ammonium bicarbonate) imported from China.
CYBER ATTACKS ON HEALTH CARE: In May of this year, a federal grand jury in San Diego, Calif., Issued an indictment accusing four nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China of “hacking into the computer systems of companies, universities, and government entities in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018 focused on information that was of significant economic benefit to Chinese companies and business sectors, including information about long and resource-intensive research and development processes on infectious diseases, vaccines and biopharmaceuticals. The defendants and their conspirators from the Hainan State Security Department (HSSD) sought to mask the role of the Chinese government in such theft by setting up a shell company, Hainan Xiandun Technology Development Co., Ltd., since dissolved. , to operate from Haikou, Hainan province. “Confidential health data has immense business value on the dark web and also strategic value like the SingHealth data breach targeted in 2018 of 1.5 million patients, including those of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. China has been accused of illegally accessing US health and genomic data to precisely target important individuals for potential surveillance, manipulation or extortion. Last weekend, Chinese cybercriminals were accused of attempted attacks by Deep Blue Magic ransomware against ten Israeli medical institutions.
INDIA, THE WORLD PHARMACY, IS IN A CHINESE TRAP: Drugs are formulated by mixing pharmaceutical excipients (additives to improve stability, or for bioavailability or patient acceptability) and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API ), synthesized from raw materials via a series of pharmaceutical intermediates. India, the pharmacy of the world, was self-sufficient in the production of its own APIs and intermediates until the 1990s. Over the past two decades, the importation of inexpensive Chinese APIs and intermediates has resulted in the shutdown or the use of a low capacity (about 30%) of Indian factories. India now imports nearly 68% of APIs and intermediaries from China, according to official estimates in a response to a question from Lok Sabha. During the pandemic, there was a sudden shortage and massive price hikes from China, leading to drug shortages in India. Any shortage or quality issue will affect both Indian health and our reputation overseas. India also imports 80% of medical devices from China, the United States, Germany and other countries. Our large trade deficit with China is mainly due to the import of electrical and electronic items ($ 18 billion), machinery ($ 12 billion) and organic chemicals ($ 8 billion), plastics ( $ 2 billion), optical and medical devices ($ 1.5 billion). All of these five categories of imports are also necessary for the health sector, and self-sufficiency or decoupling in these industries will have major health benefits for the nation. During the pandemic, we realized the impact on our healthcare services due to this heavy reliance on imports of medical devices, disposables, drugs and vaccine ingredients. The famous proverb “Self-help is the best help” is as relevant to our health security as it is to our food security, as well as to our strategic and security needs.
Dr PSVenkatesh Rao, MBBS (Vellore), MS (Vellore), DNB, FRCS (Glasg), FACS, FICS, FMAS, FAES is a consultant in endocrine, breast and laparoscopic surgery.