Is Your Generic Medication Made In China and Is It Safe?

Last week the FDA recalled several versions of the generic blood pressure medication valsartan which were made in China and contained a carcinogen (see here.)
Since then I  have switched many patients from the bad valsartan to losartan or valsartan from presumably safe manufacturers.
It didn’t really occur to me that this could be just the tip of the iceberg until I received a reader comment which I will copy below.
As I thought about it, I realized that I have no idea where the generic ramipril I am taking is manufactured. It very well could be in China or India.
This recent article from The Epoch Times confirms that Americans are becoming more and more reliant on medications manufactured in China and that many researchers feel this poses a significant security threat.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is inspecting only a small number of the Chinese companies that manufacture U.S. drugs, and those it does inspect are often found to have serious health violations. Meanwhile, the drugs that are making their way into the United States from China, either as finished products or as ingredients, are often falling far below U.S. safety standards. And some of these drugs are not being inspected at all.

The book, “China RX: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine” by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh,” details the problem.
It is very hard to find out how many US drugs come from China since drug companies don’t make their sources apparent. In addition, even if the drugs themselves aren’t manufactured in China, Gibson and Singh write
“China is the largest global supplier of the active ingredients and chemical building blocks needed to make many prescription drugs, over the counter products and vitamins.”
Below are the comments of my reader:

This is horrible. We have a problem in the U.S. It is the infiltration of Chinese generics. I had no idea that this generic was being supplied by a Chinese maker. In fact, the bottles I got said “SOLCO” which is based in New Jersey. Now I’m painfully aware that SOLCO Healthcare US which is based in New Jersey, is owned by Zhejiang Huahai Paarmaceutical based in China’s Zhejiang Province. So this is the Chinese company’s subsidiary distributing this drug in the U.S. China has a long history of selling tainted products in the U.S. Chinese drywall, lead-based paint on toys, tainted pet food, etc. Now it is important to understand that 85% of prescriptions filled in the U.S. are generic. And insurance companies will not pay for brand when generic is available. My valsartan was about $30 for 90 days. Diovan is $750. I get it. But when these companies cut corners and people are endangered, something is wrong. I will never ever take another generic drug without first finding out where the product comes from. I know this is not perfect, but it is something. I think the U.S. lawmakers need to do something to make this information more transparent. It baffles me as to how this drug could have been tainted with a highly toxic chemical for so many years (they now say 4 years). This chemical is known to cause liver damage and cancer. Apparently the manufacturer changed the way it made the active ingredient which created this poison by-product. And now who do we hold accountable? How do we get to the bottom of what went wrong, and how to prevent this going forward. We have no way to compel anything in China. All that said, thanks for your information here it is helpful. I worry that the losartan is made by the same company – I will surely investigate.

China is also flooding the American market with useless OTC medications. I realized this when I looked closely at this “motion sickness patch” which is highly rated on Amazon.
It has no active ingredient which could be realistically thought to treat motion sickness yet is featured on Amazon’s motion sickness treatment section and is favorably reviewed by over a thousand users.
Unfortunately, in the US now users of medications must be very aware of the source and quality of the products they put in their body. Generic prescription medications and OTC products are highly likely to be manufactured out of the US and with minimal oversight.
Skeptically Yours,
Addendum: I have a more recent post which includes additional recalls here.


29 thoughts on “Is Your Generic Medication Made In China and Is It Safe?”

  1. The FDA seems to be all in with cancer causing ingredients in prescription drugs and whatever else. No ban on this stuff?
    Remember when any food that was imported had to have the country of origin on its package? No longer.
    Our country was meant to be u$ed, $crewed and tattooed by the rest of the world, that includes we taxpayers.
    Nothing gets done, government all in getting wealthy while we die.

  2. Although I don’t take these medications, the discussion has caused a major awakening. My thanks to Dr. Skeptical and to everyone who participated.

  3. Thank you for posting about this threat. Do you know where I could get a reliable list of which drugs are made in China or dependent on China for their manufacture? I’m particularly interested in zophran (odansitron), Prilosec (omeprazole), and albuterol, because my wife needs all of these daily.

  4. I had switched from valsartan to losartan and then found out it’s also made in China. I fought my insurance to help me pay for Cozaar from Merck. They helped a little but when my doctor increased my dosage the insurance refused to pay and now I have to start over. Now taking generic but very worried. What to do?

  5. This just all suks. First my China made Valsartan was recalled, then my India made Losartan is recalled. I am going to tell my doctor I want Diovan made in Switzerland.

      • Medicare does not pay for brand name blood pressure medicine. Any generics manufactured in country other than India or China?
        Sent from my iPhone

    • The problem with this, Richard, is that the Diovan made by Novartis is about $750 / month because most insurance refuses to cover it.

    • Capitalism rewards the least effort possible to make money.
      At its core, it is the equivalent of stealing candy from a baby.

  6. 1-9-2018 – I also was recently put on the generic Losartan, which comes from China (ZHP manufacturer for Solco) So I called Merck to see where Cozaar the non-generic is manufactured. Cozaar is manufactured in Cramlineton, England. I am having my doctor switch my BP med to Cozaar, I know it will cost me more, but worth it. I’ve also talked with Merck’s customer service and asked them to seriously consider moving drug production back to the U.S.

  7. Dear Skeptical, I just found out my meds are generic and it appears they are all made overseas. It’s a great way to decease the our population of the USA when generics are tainted and may lead to cancer or death !! How often are these plants checked, once a year, every other year????? Who knows. I don’t think the standards are comparable to the US. Corporate America has sold out to just about everything, with China or India or other countries, and now, very possibly our lives! Very, very sad indeed !!! We definitely need more transparency on where our meds are manufactured and how often inspections are done, with findings. Thank you.

  8. I have just had the same experience. My Indian made Valsartan (Camber) was recalled so my doctor switched me to Irbesartan 150 mg tablets which at my local CVS were also manufactured by Camber. I reluctantly took these while searching for US or European made alternatives. I just went to CVS to get my refill. When I got home instead of the Indian Irbesartan I received a bottle manufactured by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.,(ZHP) Xunqiao, Linhal, Zhejiang China. I am a mechanical engineer not a chemistry major but I believe Irbesartan contains API which is what has been the problem from this company. Looking at the internet I see that the FDA has and import alert for this company. The import alert halts all ZHP-made API and finished drug products using the company’s API from legally entering the United States ( Let’s see- did the Chinese use good API in this batch….I called the CVS and asked for alternatives and was told “good luck”. My doctor said he will work with me if I can find non Chinese or Indian medication. I go out of my way to buy American made goods as I have worked in manufacturing my entire career and have made numerous trips to China and seen what goes on. My Chinese colleagues when they come to the US fill their bags with US made baby formula and vitamins (which probably contain Chinese ingredients). If anyone finds a US or European source of BP medication please post it.

  9. I take losartan50mg. Pressure went up to166 on new prescription from the VA. Several phon calls it comes from India. Having product evaluated for potency.

  10. I have been taking Losartan, but became really concerned with the latest news about carcinogens found in two more BP medications. I called EVERY local pharmacy, including big-box stores, grocery store pharmacies, independent pharmacies, and traditional pharmacies. Not a single one has US-made losartan. Every one of them has stock of meds made in either China or India. One pharmacists told me that he had no control of what he sells; it’s all decided on the corporate level. Another said that he would stock the cheapest generic he could find. Still another pharmacy tried to convince me that Citron, Torrent, and Solco are New Jersey companies selling US-made drugs. It takes only a few minutes of Internet research to prove them wrong. Apparently, there is no incentive to stock US-made drugs. I agree, the consumers have to take action and write to their representatives demanding answers from the FDA.

  11. I too am trying hard to search my meds to see where mine are manufactured! I don’t want to buy mine from China. There are so many recalls. I am unable to find out though. I even called my pharmacist who returned my call 15 min later telling me they are all made here in USA. I want to find out for myself. I don’t really want to have any part of them from China.

  12. I too had valsartan recalled. Why do we as Americans accept this quality of medicine and other garbage China send over for Americans to purchase. I for one will be requesting American made meds and other items. Times I feel like our American government is killing Americans off when they allow tainted products come in to America.

  13. Dear Skeptical –
    I’m the guy who wrote the comments you quote in the article above. I have an update. You’re not going to like it. My cardiologist changed my blood pressure med to irbesartan. Another generic ARB. I went to get it filled today at a local grocery store pharmacy. I asked where it was made and they showed me the bottle. Guess what? It was SOLCO/Prinston as distributor and Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals LTD – the same manufacturer as the tainted valsartan. Exactly the same. Despite the recent horrible FDA inspection report of that facility which is posted online here:
    Also, the FDA has found another cancer causing chemical in the drug since I last wrote – now there are two. I checked at [MAJOR CHAIN] pharmacy – they use the SAME CHINESE MANUFACTURER. I checked at [MAJOR CHAIN 2] – yep, they use the SAME CHINESE MANUFACTURER. This is really starting to get scary. I’m trying hard to find a pharmacy that has the non-Chinese version (there are 16 other generic manufacturers of the drug). My insurance company only permits me to use the pharmacies I tried today. Funny how everyone is buying Chinese. Does that validate the claims made in the Epoch article. Is this really that Chinese are undercutting everyone else? I’m just disgusted. I will tell you that if I owned a pharmacy I would not purchase my generics from the same company that just caused one of the largest drug recalls in history. It must be really really cheap. Really really cheap.

  14. Albert,

    Because I sent you an email on Valsartan, I am sending you this one too. No wonder so many people do not tolerate some medication! Who knows where it is manufactured? I was taking once the prescribed medication. The first prescription filled was from TEVA. After that, I asked the pharmacy where the pills were made and he told me “India”. I asked that question because I saw the name “Citron” instead of “Teva” in the new pill box. I guess India may follow the rules. But, who knows???

  15. Everyone takes generics. What is the indicator on the packaging for the source? I know for most food products it is found in the barcode. Thanks for the information.

    • Kate – write to the Senate committee that oversees the FDA. Demand more clarity in labeling of prescription bottles – the country of origin should be CLEAR and CONSPICUOUS – just like that little “Made in China” sticker on the photo above – but on the prescription label itself. Right now only the pharmacist’s supply bottle has the labeling. Write your congressman and to:
      U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
      428 Senate Dirksen Office Building
      Washington, DC 20510

      • china has been killing us for fifty years. rember the lead in make up for r mom n sisters and aunts.lets not forget the little tikes with the lead paint on the toys.our leaders prolly get kick backs.WHAT A SHAME

    • I have been trying to find blood pressure medication manufactured in the United States. The only options I have found are from India or China.
      Thought I had found a manufacturer in Michigan but they simply put their label over the one from India. What can we do?? Have to take the medication but afraid of what controls they use in India and WHY can’t we manufacture medications in USA?? More GREED from the drug companies???


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