As part of the government restructuring announced in March 1998, the Ministry of Health’s Department of Drug Administration merged with the State Pharmaceutical Administration of China (SPAC) to become the State Drug Administration (SDA). As a result, SDA oversees all drug manufacturing, trade, and registration.
In 2003, the SDA was restructured to become the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA). Other former functions of the ministry have been assigned to different government bodies. The most important of these was the transfer of medical insurance responsibilities to the new Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Health retains its other main functions-regulatory development and oversight, healthcare resource allocation, and medical research and education. The Chinese government’s establishment of a single drug regulatory authority was an important step toward foreign access, because it eliminated the conflicting standards that prevailed
among provincial government agencies, centralized the Chinese healthcare regulatory system, and made it more transparent. SFDA now oversees all medications-both Western and TCM-as well as advertising.
SFDA’s new regulations follow US FDA’s model. In July 1999, as part of medical insurance reform, SFDA released its first list of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and in 2000, the state began to regulate OTC and prescription drugs separately. SFDA did so to encourage patients to purchase OTC medicines for less serious diseases, thereby reducing government medication expenditures and hospital visits. The SFDA plans to cut the number of manufacturers down to around 2,000 over the next two years by attrition and by requiring remaining firms to meet the new GMP standards. In fact, SFDA required all pharmaceutical companies in China to obtain GMP certificates from SFDA by June 30, 2004 to be licensed to sell their drug products in China. About 3000 of the companies met the deadline; companies in the process of obtaining certification may subcontract secondary production to a certified company until June 30, 2005.
In 2005, SFDA launched a regulation on drug research and supervision management aimed at enforcing GLP to investigative drugs, traditional Chinese medicine injections and biotechnology products. The regulation aims to help China’s drug research and development gain international recognition.
Main Responsibilities of the SFDA
1. To organize relevant authorities to draft laws and regulations on the safety management of food, health food and cosmetics; organize relevant authorities to formulate comprehensive supervision policy, work plan and supervise its implementation.
2. To exercise comprehensive supervision on the safety management of food, health food and cosmetics in accordance with laws; organize and coordinate supervision work on the safety of food, health food and cosmetics carried out by relevant authorities.
3. To organize and carry out investigation and impose punishment on serious safety accidents of food, health food and cosmetics; delegated by the State Council, organize, coordinate and conduct specific law-enforcement campaigns over safety of food, health food and cosmetics nationwide; organize, coordinate and collaborate with relevant authorities in carrying out emergency rescue work on serious safety accidents of food, health food and cosmetics.