Shoppers from the mainland who have shunned Hong Kong dispensaries because of the milk powder ban implemented earlier this year are now returning with a new shopping list — anti-cancer drugs which could be as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1, 632) cheaper than on the mainland.
While mainland visitors are enjoying a better deal, medical professionals warned them to beware of fake drugs and the possibility of shortages.
Drugs for treating illnesses like cancer are growing more popular among mainland visitors to Hong Kong, according to an investigation.
Drugstores in traditional tourism spots such as Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui are often crammed with mainland tourists. But such tourists are also venturing to less central areas to buy drugs, a Hong Kong media report said.
“People from the mainland trust Hong Kong brands due to their good quality and they mainly buy medicines of general types,” a shop assistant from Cheung Tai Dispensary in Wanchai said.
Confidence in Hong Kong drugs increased after some products made in China encountered quality problems.
Mi Luofu, a mainlander working in Hong Kong, said she has been sending children’s medicine back to her hometown every month.
Apart from good quality, mainlanders like buying medicines in Hong Kong because they are cheaper.
For example, a package of herceptin, a breast cancer drug, sells for 14,800 yuan in a Hong Kong dispensary in the Western district, while the same product costs 24,500 yuan on the mainland, People’s Daily reported.
As a free-port, Hong Kong does not levy any tariffs on imports and exports, making it possible for retailers to sell products at cheaper prices than on the mainland.
Iressa, a restricted medicine in Hong Kong for lung cancer and manufactured by an Indian drug factory, is being sold for HK$2,500 (US$322.16) to HK$3,200, while the same product from a British manufacturer costs HK$20,000.
Hong Kong Medical Association Chairman Tse Hung-hing warned that restricted medicines should only be sold at pharmacies which are under the supervision of a registered pharmacist and only with a doctor’s prescription, otherwise the seller would be violating the law.
A paper quoted Tse as warning customers some medicines could cause serious problems if abused or not taken according to a doctor’s instructions.
Although it is not illegal to buy restricted drugs without a prescription, such customers face the risk of purchasing fake products, warned William Chui, president of the Hong Kong Society of Hospital Pharmacists.