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Tainted capsules, tarnished image

By Shen Lili (Global Times)

09:07, May 07, 2012

Health officials examining the problematic medical products after the drug safety breakout

On April 15, CCTV ran a report revealing that gelatin for industrial use was substituted for edible gelatin, to make medicinal capsules. The former is cheaper to use but contains toxic levels of chromium. The product was distributed to Shaoxing, Zhejiang, where nine major pharmaceutical companies, including respected Chinese brands Xiuzheng Pharmaceutical Group and Sichuan Shuzhong Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd., used the tainted chromium capsules.

Nine Chinese entertainment stars were public endorsers for Xiuzheng's products, including A-list celebrities Sun Honglei, Zhang Fengyi and Chen Jianbin. Overnight, these celebrities were scrutinized severely. Judgments about celebrity endorsement came down hard.

Medical and health companies in China commonly use celebrities to endorse their products as a way to boost products' credibility. Celebrities are also willing to be the advertising face, as it's a fast way to be in the public domain and earn easy cash. But if the advertised products are found to be problematic, endorsers claim zero responsibility. While the public condemns celebrities for promoting tainted medicine, some point out that these endorsers are themselves victims of false advertising.

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