Bureau of Customs

Philippines seizes smuggled China medicines marketed as COVID-19 cure

Philippines seizes smuggled China medicines marketed as COVID-19 cure

SMUGGLED. Bureau of Customs personnel show smuggled goods, including the traditional Chinese medicine capsule Lianhua Qingwen, seized in a Parañaque warehouse raid on February 19, 2021.

Photo from Bureau of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service

Doses of the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen are among the P9 million worth of smuggled Chinese goods seized by the Bureau of Customs

The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) confiscated P9 million ($185,600) worth of smuggled Chinese medicines and other items during a raid of a warehouse located on Sunrise Street in Tambo, Parañaque City.

Among the items seized in the raid was the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) capsule Lianhua Qingwen, widely marketed in China as a coronavirus treatment. Other items found were Chinese cigarettes, medicines, food items, and other illegally imported goods. 

“We will need to do inventory, but most of the goods are Lianhua Qingwen, which is used as medicine for COVID-19,” said Alvin Enciso, chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) at the Manila International Container Port.

Enciso, who led the raid last Friday, February 19, with members of the National Bureau of Investigation Special Action Unit (NBI SAU), said a signed letter of authority was served to representatives of the warehouse. 

The seized goods were kept at the customs bureau premises where an inventory of items will take place on Monday, February 22.

In August 2020, the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Lianhua Qingwen for use in the Philippines. Lianhua Qingwen is produced by a popular traditional Chinese medicine manufacturer, Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

But while the FDA approved Lianhua Qingwen, the agency warned against the purchase of unregistered versions of the Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang capsule which had different labels aside from the prescribed English version. 

FDA Director General Eric Domingo also said that while the agency approved the TCM, the drug was approved in the Philippines for treating respiratory illnesses, not COVID-19. Access to the drug also has to be predicted by a licensed doctor, he added. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P48.49