The country’s nerve has been hit by a new vaccine scandal, prompting quick reactions from Beijing leaders. The scam has sent ripples across the extensive domestic drug market, posing a threat of denting the ambitions of China to play a larger global role.
Biotech firms and Chinese vaccine makers’ shares fell across on Monday after Premier Li Keqiang condemned Changsheng Biotechnology Co. for crossing a moral red line. He called for a swift action to be taken.
The case came into light a week ago when Changsheng was caught violating rabies vaccine making standard. The officials have already ordered Changsheng to freeze production and recall all its vaccines, however, no apparent case of people being harmed or have contracted rabies was reported.
In a country where sensitivity over food and drug safety is extremely stringent after a series of scandals reported over the last decade, this case comes as a shocker for everybody. After losing 40% of shares since mid-July, Changsheng’s shares have been permanently suspended on Monday.
The scam has dealt a blow to China’s drug regulator and sparked an outrage on social media. The country has been striving to promote domestically made vaccines and clean up the image of the world’s second-biggest drug industry.
Since the country is looking forward to play a bigger role on the global scale in the export and production of vaccines as well as other medicines, this scam proves as a setback for the country.
As per the official statement posted on the government’s website later Sunday, Premier Li ordered for an immediate probe and also urged severe castigation for the companies and people involved. He further added that the public needs clear information.
In his statement, 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.”
Further illuminating the incident, The China Food and Drug Administration stated that the investigation led to the fact that Changsheng made-up product inspection records and production records, and randomly modified process parameters and equipment which is considered a serious violation of the law.
The suspension of rabies vaccine production would have a significant effect on the finances of the company as some regional disease control agencies had previously banned some of its other vaccines.
The China Daily editorial published on Monday cautioned the case might possibly become a public health emergency if it is not controlled “in a transparent and reasonable manner.”
It further stated, “The government needs to act as soon as possible to let the public know it is resolved to address the issue and will punish any wrongdoers without mercy.”
In supplementary to the editorial published by China Daily, the state news agency Xinhua ran a similar editorial calling for punishment for any breaches, big or small, in the drug industry and appealing regulators to tighten oversight of the industry and close the loopholes.
The China Securities News also weighed in, saying listed companies have a duty to the public and to conduct business with integrity.
“Cases like Changsheng Biotechnology, where laws and regulations are ignored and internal controls exist only in name bring a painful price,” it said.
State media have said Changsheng made a public apology and recalled all their rabies vaccine available on the market.