Officials in Taiwan say fake Crestor used Chinese ingredients

After a counterfeiting incident caused AstraZeneca to recall its big-selling cholesterol drug Crestor in Taiwan, the country's officials have said that the fakes used an ingredient sourced from China.

Two batches of Crestor (rosuvastatin) that were subsequently identified as counterfeit were prescribed to around 570,000 National Health Insurance patients according to a Taipei Times report, which says the government is now seeking to double down on its efforts to fight the fakes.

In a debate in Taiwan's parliament, the Ministry of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, under a grilling from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo, said that the counterfeit drugs' ingredients "were mailed from China to Taiwan," although many of those involved in the scam are still unknown to authorities.

The primary suspect, however, has been remanded in custody, according to Taiwan Premier Lin Chuan. The Ministry is now considering whether to send its investigators overseas to China to look into what happened.

Last week a recall was made when several batches of Crestor (rosuvastatin) where found to be made up of another drug (atorvastatin), where found in the supply chain. This drug is also a statin (in fact once the biggest-selling medicine in the world). While many falsified medicines contain little or no active ingredient, in this case it appears those behind the counterfeits tried to disguise their activity by using a cheaper generic that would have some clinical effect.

The whole saga has prompted a re-think of medical regulation for drugs in the country: "This incident is a test for our entire medical safety system and especially for the ministry's agencies responsible for protecting the nation's drug safety, as it will show whether their work has won the public's trust," Lin said. "We must use this opportunity to completely re-evaluate our performance."

This will include, Lin said: "Reviewing existing procedures, including those for dealing with fake drugs; tracking the production and distribution of medicines; quality control regulations; hospital inventory inspections; the mechanism for reporting fake drugs; and methods for their disposal."

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