On 8 January 2013, SFDA released a report ("Report") concerning the results of its continuing investigations into online pharmaceutical trading activities conducted pursuant to the Notice to Further Enhance Supervision and Administration over Internet Drug Information Services and Internet Drug Trading Services to Severely Crack Down on the Illegal Release of False Drug Information and Drug Sales (SFDA [2012] No. 62) ("Notice") issued by SFDA on 24 February 2012.

The online sale of pharmaceuticals in China is increasing in popularity - the Report indicates that there are 118 companies that are licensed to provide online pharmaceutical trading services. Of these licensed companies:

  • 7 are licensed to provide third party pharmaceutical trading platform services;
  • 42 are licensed to provide internet pharmaceutical trading services to other enterprises (B2B); and
  • 69 are licensed to provide pharmaceutical retail services to individual customers (B2C).

Pursuant to the Notice, new applications for online pharmaceutical trading licenses were not accepted by SFDA from February 2012 to October 2012. Since 31 October 2012, however, SFDA has resumed accepting applications and issuing new online pharmaceutical trading licenses.

With regards to the results of SFDA's investigations, the Report notes that SFDA has:

  • examined and reviewed 118 of the licensed websites that provide online pharmaceutical information and conduct pharmaceutical trading activities
  • issued 263 rectification notices to companies that were deemed to be conducting inappropriate online activities;
  • cancelled 172 Internet Pharmaceutical Information Service Licenses - 70 of these cancellations also resulted in further administrative disciplinary action;
  • closed 82 pharmaceutical-related websites; and
  • conducted and filed investigations that resulted in 10 separate cases.

In addition to the Report, we note that SFDA has created a section on its website called: "Warning Notice for Internet Drug Purchases" ("Notice Column"), which SFDA uses to identify websites that release misleading pharmaceutical information and conduct unauthorized pharmaceutical trading.

The release of the Report and the establishment of the Notice Column indicate SFDA is paying close attention to the increase in popularity of online pharmaceutical sales. Companies interested in providing such licensed online services would be well advised to have adequate plans in place to ensure their proposed online activities comply with SFDA's requirements.

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