China’s fentanyl firms back crackdown on opioid

China’s fentanyl firms back crackdown on opioid

The biggest legal producer of fentanyl in China has welcomed the country’s commitment to clamp down on the synthetic opioid to help stop the flow of the drug to the United States.

Humanwell Healthcare chairman Wang Xuehai said on Monday that any fentanyl reaching American shores from China was “illegally manufactured by underground factories and smuggled to the US”.

“It has nothing to do with the five legal producers of fentanyl products [in China], including us,” Wang said.

Wang’s comment was in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s agreement on the weekend to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance. China has been accused of not doing enough to halt the flow of drugs and chemicals into the US that are linked to an epidemic of overdose deaths.

Wang said the agreement was aimed at underground producers and distributors, and was a positive development for legal manufacturers.

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Humanwell Healthcare produces fentanyl at a subsidiary in Yichang, Hubei province, earning the company more than 2 billion yuan (US$287 million) in sales of the drug last year.

Wang said Humanwell and other manufacturers only had approval to make fentanyl in liquid injection form. The National Medical Products Administration did not allow any production in oral tablet form, he said.

The company also said it did not export fentanyl or its raw materials to the United States.

The main overseas buyers of its fentanyl were official procurers in Sri Lanka, Ecuador, the Philippines and Turkey, from which it earned about 5 million yuan a year, it said.

The medical products administration declined to comment.

Jiangsu Nhwa Pharmaceutical, another major Chinese producer of the opioid, said it did not export any fentanyl.

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Financial services firm China International Capital Corporation said tighter restrictions on the drug would not affect approved producers.

“[It will have] only a symbolic impact on domestic enterprises and will not affect actual operations,” the corporation said in a report.

According to the US-based Pain and Policy Studies Group, per capita consumption of fentanyl in China was 0.005 milligrammes per person in 2015, compared to more than 1.5 milligrammes in the United States.

A source familiar with Chinese regulations on painkillers said anaesthetics, including fentanyl, were covered by “red” prescriptions in the medical system.

“Red prescriptions are treated very seriously in hospitals,” she said. “Under the regulations, if anything goes wrong, heads will roll.”


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