Anti-Cancer Herbal Medicine and Fire Therapy: The Hoax of a Chinese Medicine Giant

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Chinese health authorities are investigating an alleged faulty herbal medicine from Quanjian group that might be related to the death of a 4-year-old child back in 2015. According to South China Morning Post, the investigation was conducted under high priorities and is considered of high importance.

The alleged scandal became viral on Chinese social media after blogger Dr. Clove (Ding Xiang Yi Sheng) posted a story accusing the Quanjian group of exaggerating the effectiveness of their products. The company allegedly offered an anti-cancer product to a 4-year-old patient. According to Dr. Clove, the Quanjian product made the patient’s symptoms deteriorate faster and led to her death in Dec. 2015.

the anti-cancer product the 4-year-old patient uses

Quanjian Group, the company that is worth $871 million, denied these allegations and decided to file a lawsuit against Dr. Clove on making groundless accusations and erroneous claims. Dr. Clove responded to the lawsuit by stating that they stand by every word in their articles and welcome any forms of legal challenges.

subsidiary of Quanjian Group (source: new.qq.com)

It has also been reported that another major service of the Quanjian company is the so-called “fire therapy”, that allegedly helps patients by improving local blood circulation. However, certified physicians say that only certain professionals of Chinese medicine are qualified for practicing fire therapy, and that there are serious safety concerns if carried out in small medical clinics.

In addition to health products, the Quanjian Group also has business units in various other fields such as hospitals, finance, and sports. The company owns Tianjin Quanjian F.C., a professional football club that plays in China’s top division football league. Quanjian F.C was a quarter-finalist of the AFC Champions League. Football players such as Axel Witsel, Luís Fabiano, and Alexandre Pato were playing on the team in recent seasons.

Tianjin Quanjian Football Club (source: Xinhua news agency)

The Quanjian health product scandal is one of the many scandals that attracted the public’s attention in recent years. Earlier in 2018, Hongmao medical liquor was under investigation for inaccurately promoting the functions of their products. The whistleblower of the incident, Dr. Tan Qindong, was detained for three months without charge . In July, the country was shocked by the vaccine malpractices committed by a Changchun-based medical company.

Hongmao medical liquor (source: trad.cn_.rfi_.fr_)

Earlier in December, Pandaily covered the story of faked medical examination results in China. While the majority of the country’s population put huge emphasis on the importance of health-related issues; scandals, malpractices, and illegal activities are frequently discovered in fields related to the health industry.

It sounds like a one-too-many incident. For a country that cares about public health and explores ways to increase longevity, these wrongdoings are simply not acceptable. Yet within one year, four major malconducts were discovered and received national news attention. Despite having uncovered these issues, the country’s regulatory system failed to prevent future accidents from taking place. Even though Quanjian’s case now receives a lot of attention, the ending of such investigations tend to not look so optimistic for the average consumer considering to purchase health-related products in China. The investigations usually fail to deter future wrongdoings within the industry. One company might be able to go down because of a major incident, but the punishments are far from effective as misconduct and fraud incidents are still prevalent.

Shu Yuhui, president of the Quanjian Group (source: 直播吧)

In 2008, Sanlu Milk Powder scandal made the Chinese public aware of the risks of the country’s product quality. Yet 10 years from the major incident, the industry did not improve its quality standards to a high-enough bar to assure the worrying consumers. The industry remains to be a company-always-wins kind of game: Companies that are producing health products will always be able to find consumers who are not wise enough to identify the problematic products. These companies make easy money by pushing down production costs to extremely low levels, hiring commission-based staffs to help to sell the products, and saving a small portion of their revenue for potential lawsuits and cover disputes with angry consumers.

Unlike medical companies in developed economies, it is uncertain whether the Chinese pharmaceuticals need to pass any tests in order to sell their products in Chinese shops and drugstores. But the reality remains pessimistic: Regardless of how the Chinese health officials are emphasizing on the importance of quality standards and implement severe punishments for violating them, the problem still remains and there are very few signs of improvement on the matter.

A legal battle against these companies would be hard to achieve. These lawsuits would be lengthy and ineffective, and the final verdict regarding specific cases may also make it very difficult for individual consumers to get the justice they deserve. In cases as such, victims may suffer from permanent health damage and loss of their close family members. These losses are very hard to compensate for using monetary means: Even if the victims finally get a huge amount of compensation, these victims will still suffer from irreversible damage caused by the defective pharmaceuticals.

In order to combat these unreliable products, individual consumers need to educate themselves and raise awareness about science, medicine, and the importance of identifying the potentially risky products. While many patients or seniors may find themselves without many good options, it is never a good idea to try products that have not been tested or approved by government authorities: If chemotherapy didn’t cure the cancer, what chance would some random herbs have? While people don’t enjoy talking about death, or face their own or a friend’s the last moments, it is essential to maintain a clear head to avoid further damage and unnecessary spending on uncertain products that cause more harm than good.

The Chinese government is having a tough time enforcing effective regulatory measures. The complexity of having to go through the local government, tax authorities, and the judicial officials, makes it very hard for victims to get justice through legal battles. While the media may expose problematic firms and individuals who are at fault, these steps are far from eradicating the issues in a wider sense..

For regular consumers who might be potential victims, it is about maintaining one’s composure and logic at all times. Doing some research before making a final decision, pausing for a moment before swiping that credit card, and asking those who have better knowledge on these matters will certainly reduce the chance of falling victim to unreliable medical companies.

Featured photo credit to sina

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