Chinese Cancer Patients Are Illicitly Importing and Preparing Their Own Drugs

Faced with a broken health care system, stomach a growing number of Chinese cancer patients are resorting to treating themselves

When Li had a problem he didn’t know how to fix, ampoule he did what most of us now do — he looked it up online. And sure enough, he found a group of people in similar straits, swapping tips on possible solutions. But Li wasn’t quarreling with his boss or trying to repair a leaky pipe; his grandmother had terminal lung cancer, and had just developed resistance to the only drugs that helped.

“In our hometown, the hospital couldn’t do anything but give her nutrition injections,” says Li, who’s asked that we only use his family name. “My grandmother was just waiting for death.”

The Internet had an alternative answer, of course, though like much found online, it wasn’t strictly legal. Driven out desperation, Li joined a growing community of Chinese who are illicitly importing the active ingredient of therapeutic drugs from chemical factories and distributing them to would-be patients, normally family members who cannot afford or access them through official routes.

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