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FTA loopholes may allow dodgy drugs into NZ

23rd April 2008


FTA loopholes may allow dodgy drugs into NZ

The Government's trade agreement with China could increase the numbers of contaminated and counterfeit medicines coming into New Zealand, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley warned today.

Ms Kedgley's comments follow revelations that contaminated supplies of heparin from China have been linked to 81 deaths in the United States. New Zealand is on the Food and Drug Administration's list of countries that import heparin from China.

"There are provisions in the our trade agreement that require goods to be fast tracked through borders within 48 hours, in both China and New Zealand, with some exemptions," Ms Kedgley says.

"It seems highly likely that this will weaken the safety provisions that both New Zealand and China have in place, and increase the amount of products arriving here that could be contaminated or counterfeit.

"Medsafe must develop a strategy to protect New Zealanders," Ms Kedgley says.

"The problem, as the heparin incident shows, is that there are gaping holes in Chinese safety systems, particularly with the number of chemical companies that sell pharmaceutical ingredients without a drug license.

"The way heparin is made and distributed demonstrates this. The raw material for heparin comes from membranes in the intestines of pigs, which are mixed together and cooked, and this process often takes place in unregulated family workshops in China.

"The ingredients are then transported to plants that manufacture them for shipment to another trader.

"There are so many steps along the way, and each is open to corner-cutting, cost-saving and contamination.

"While China is taking steps to increase safety standards, this case reveals that counterfeit or contaminated products are slipping through the net.

"Clearly we need more stringent safety checks on imported medicines from China, rather than what appears to be an emphasis on getting goods over borders as fast as possible to meet the conditions of our trade deal.

"Medsafe must develop a strategy to protect New Zealanders from contaminated and counterfeit medicines."

ENDS

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