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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Celebrities face criticism over drug ads

By Liu Meng (Global Times)

08:22, April 24, 2012

Public uproar over the gelatin-capsule scandal has escalated to include celebrities who endorsed products for the nine pharmaceutical companies identified by the Ministry of Health as distributing tainted drugs.

At least nine stars, including Sun Honglei, Lin Yongjian and Chen Jianbin, appeared in advertisements for one of the companies, Jilin Xiuzheng Pharmaceutical Group.

Lin endorsed a capsule that is used to cure a cold and Chen a capsule that can nourish the kidney.

It was reported that Xiuzheng invested a lot of money in hiring stars as their products' representatives. This March alone, the company spent 346 million yuan ($54.8 million) on ads that aired on CCTV and provincial-level satellite TV channels.

With the help of these advertisements, the company's revenue in 2011 reached about 11.5 billion yuan, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

The most common public reaction has been to say that these stars should somehow be held responsible for their involvement in the scandal.

"The stars who take advantage of their social influence to pursue economic benefit while neglecting the quality of products should be punished," Zhang Zheng, 30, a resident in Changchun, Jilin Province, told the Global Times.

"Do these stars have to hire a professional team to inspect products that have already passed the supervision authority's scrutiny?" said another microblogger.

Tang Xiangqian, a lawyer at the Beijing-based Boyou Law Firm, told the Global Times that there is no regulation in Chinese mainland law that would hold stars accountable if they endorsed false drugs.

"Regulations should be established so that only public figures that use a drug may endorse it," he said.

Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times that stars who take advantage of the public's trust to endorse a product should also be punished.

"Even if there are no relevant laws to give them sanctions, they should be morally condemned," he said.

The Ministry of Public Security has arrested nine suspects, detained 54 and shut down 80 industrial gelatin-capsule manufacturing lines, according to a statement posted on its website over the weekend.

The ministry has also confiscated 77 million capsules made from toxic chromium-laced industrial gelatin, said the statement.

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