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Archive for the ‘medicine’ Category

EU report: 64% of fake goods are from China- a 10% increase

Posted by Author on July 22, 2010


BBC News, 22 July 2010 –

An EU report says 64% of fake or pirated goods seized in the 27-nation bloc last year came from China – a 10% increase on 2008.

Clothing was the biggest category of goods seized at 27%, while the amount of illegal CDs, DVDs and electrical goods seized showed a marked decline.

The economic downturn accounted for a fall in customs interventions.

Black market cigarettes, fake labels and counterfeit medicines were common contraband, the EU says.

There were significant quantities of contraband shampoos, toothpaste, toys, medicines or household appliances that could pose a health hazard, the European Commission report said on Thursday.

In all, customs officials intervened in more than 43,500 cases last year, seizing 118 million articles.

The commission said that in the past luxury goods were the most susceptible to intellectual property right (IPR) infringements, but “more and more items used by citizens in their daily lives are now affected”.

Cigarettes accounted for 19% of the products seized, other tobacco products 16%, labels 13% and medicines 10%.

More than 77% of all detained products were destroyed or a court case was initiated to determine the infringement.

Of the goods seized, 38% were flown into the EU and 34% entered the EU by post.

The main origin of contraband food and drink was Turkey, while for medicines it was the United Arab Emirates and for toys and games it was Egypt.

BBC News

Posted in Business, China, Counterfeit, Economy, Europe, Made in China, medicine, News, products, Social, Trade, World | Comments Off on EU report: 64% of fake goods are from China- a 10% increase

China Vet Exposes Toxins in Food Supply

Posted by Author on November 24, 2008


By Xin Fei, Epoch Times Staff, Nov 23, 2008 –

Ms. Wang Haizhen, a vet from Hebei Animal Pharmaceutical Co., exposes corruption within the industry. (The Epoch Times)

Ms. Wang Haizhen, a vet from Hebei Animal Pharmaceutical Co., exposes corruption within the industry. (The Epoch Times)

Ms. Wang Haizhen, a veterinarian from the Hebei Province Animal Pharmaceutical Co, recently went public with information exposing corruption in China’s food industry.

According to her, as early as 2005, several toxic substances including melamine were detected in some animal feed, resulting in contaminated milk powder, eggs, and pork having entered the food market and harming consumers. She said after the Sanlu Company’s contaminated baby formula incident, many other companies in the area have still been using chemicals such as the known carcinogen iodized rhodium protein, which is more dangerous than melamine.

Wang’s husband was arrested a few years ago for contacting the authorities in regards to contaminated animal feed. When the Sanlu incident occurred, she made the decision to not only continue appealing for her husband’s release but also follow in his footsteps by appealing for the people.

Wrongfully Imprisoned

Gao Songlin, Wang’s husband, was a sales manager for the Feilong Company, a subsidiary of the Hebei Animal Pharmaceutical Co. In 2005, Gao discovered that certain banned substances were being used in the formulas for some animal feed the company had been producing.  Much of this feed was already distributed, which means counterfeit drugs and toxic feed additives had already entered the market and contaminated the animal husbandry in some areas. This later led to the subsequent emergence of contaminated milk powder, eggs, and pork.

Gao was shocked by all this. He made arrangements to speak with An Diajin, the head of the legal department of the company in an effort to have the toxic substances removed from the animal feed formula. Gao also reported it to the Ministry of Agriculture several times. A month after the seizure of the company, An Dianjin falsely accused Gao of embezzlement. What should have been a civil case turned into a criminal case without a criminal investigation. Gao was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison.

Wang said, “The accusations are entirely false!”

Wang remarked that authorities had long since been aware of the presence of toxic substances in animal feed and its harmful effects but did their best to keep it quiet. She said they failed to take any preventive measures, and in order to protect their own best interests, they retaliated against the whistleblower.

“When my husband said he would report it, the person from the Pharmaceutical Company said, ‘Go ahead! Many of our men are the authorities.”

Toxic Materials Still Being Used

According to Wang, Hebei is the largest manufacturing base in China. It contains several large animal pharmaceutical companies for food additives, animal feed and animal pharmaceuticals. The Feilong Animal Pharmaceutical Company is one of them.

Wang said, although the Feilong Company was closed, it quickly changed its name and went on with business. Its plant and employees never changed. Just like the Sanlu Company, it changed its name and went right on with business.

According to Wang, a lot of manufacturers are still using melamine even after the Sanlu Scandal was exposed. Besides melamine, they also add large doses of Rh proteins, Lipiodol, Clenbuterol, attractant agents, just to name a few, to get the effect of accelerating the growth rate of animals. But the chemicals and toxic materials they are adding can easily have carcinogenic effects. Some of these additives are more dangerous than melamine.

She reported that in Hebei alone, there are several hundred companies like this. Besides these, there are several thousand unregistered companies. There are many cases like these in other parts of the country.

According to Wang, people on the inside know all the dirty tricks. Therefore they are usually very careful when it comes to eating meat. Consuming meat containing these additives on a long-term basis can lead to serious health consequences. Higher cancer rates nowadays are directly associated with eating contaminated meat.

She said it’s a secret trick of the trade to avoid meat as much as possible……. (more details from The Epochtimes)

Posted in Business, China, Company, corruption, Economy, Food, Health, Hebei, Law, Life, Made in China, medical, medicine, News, North China, People, products, Social, Tainted Products, Women, World | Comments Off on China Vet Exposes Toxins in Food Supply

Timeline: China milk scandal (till Nov. 14, 2008)

Posted by Author on November 17, 2008


BBC News, 14 November 2008-

Dangerously high levels of the industrial chemical melamine have been found in powdered baby milk and other dairy products in China, sparking worldwide safety concerns. The BBC looks at how the saga unfolded.

10 Sept: China reveals that 14 babies fell ill in Gansu province over the previous two months. All drank the same brand of milk powder. Cases start being reported around China.

12 Sept:
Sanlu Group admits that its milk powder was contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine.

13 Sept: Production halts at Sanlu Group. Nineteen people are arrested.

15 Sept: Beijing confirms two babies have died. Vice-President of the Sanlu Group apologises to the public.

19 Sept:
Melamine is found in ordinary milk from three well-known dairies. One of the firms involved – Mengniu dairy – recalls all its products.

22 Sept: Toll of ill babies rises to 53,000, and the death toll to at least four. The head of China’s quality watchdog resigns, becoming the first national leader to step down because of the scandal.

23 Sept: Countries across Asia start to either test Chinese dairy products or pull them from shops.

26 Sept: The EU bans Chinese baby food with milk traces. Sales of the popular sweet White Rabbit are halted after tests detect melamine.

29 Sept: Cadbury recalls products in Asia after tests find traces of melamine. Reports say 22 people have been arrested in Hebei province, suspected of introducing melamine into the supply chain.

15 Oct: Nearly 6,000 infants remain in hospital across China for kidney diseases. Six are in a serious condition.

21 Oct: About 1,500 racoon dogs bred for their fur on a farm in China die of kidney failure after eating feed tainted with melamine.

23 Oct: Six more people are arrested in connection with the tainted milk scandal.

26 Oct: Hong Kong authorities discover eggs produced by Dalian Hanwei Group’s eggs contain melamine. They are pulled off the shelves.

30 Oct: Two more egg brands from Shanxi and Hubei provinces are found to contain melamine.

31 Oct: State media admit that melamine is probably being routinely added to Chinese animal feed.

2 Nov: A Chinese official insists the egg scandal is an individual case and clamps down on illegal producers of feed.

14 Nov: The US issues a nationwide “import alert” for Chinese-made food products.

BBC News, 14 November 2008

Posted in Asia, Business, Children, China, Economy, Food, Health, Law, Life, Made in China, medical, medicine, News, People, products, Social, Tainted Products, Trade, USA, World | Comments Off on Timeline: China milk scandal (till Nov. 14, 2008)

Retracing the Path Toxic Powder Took To Food in China

Posted by Author on November 11, 2008


By Maureen Fan and Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post Foreign Service, USA, Saturday, November 8, 2008-

SHIJIAZHUANG, China — Xue Jianzhong never posted a sign on his ground-floor shop, but somehow everyone knew what he was selling. Customers from all over this dairy farming region in the northeastern province of Hebei flocked to Xue’s dusty street to buy special concoctions that he said would make milk more nutritious — and more marketable.

Advertised as a “protein powder,” the substance was sold in 44-pound bags and was tasteless, odorless and white, like talc. It wasn’t cheap, about $1 a pound, but it could be mixed into inferior milk or even with specially treated water and the result would be a milklike liquid that would pass government quality tests.

It wasn’t until September, when Xue was arrested in connection with the investigation into the poisoning of tens of thousands of babies across China, that it became clear his secret ingredient was a toxic industrial chemical called melamine.

Melamine can mimic protein in nutrition tests for milk and in products such as wheat gluten and chicken feed. But when ingested in large amounts, it can cause kidney stones or death in children and animals.

The problem is not just a domestic one. Melamine has surfaced in foods sold across Asia and, earlier, in pet food that poisoned animals in the United States, tainting China’s reputation as the world’s factory.

How the same substance that had killed pets and was officially banned in China as an additive in food just last year wound up in baby formula and so many other food products is a story of desperate farmers, complicit chemical companies, and government officials who looked the other way. All were part of a system that allowed the network of melamine dealers to thrive.

Farmers and companies involved in food and feed production said that the doctoring of their products was an open secret in the countryside but that the salesmen had told them it was harmless.

“Actually, every milk collection center bought a lot of melamine,” said Wang, a 60-year-old farmer in the village of Yudi, in the Shijiazhuang area, who would not give her full name because she feared retribution. “Everybody did this.”

China’s melamine trade is run by a criminal syndicate that has relied on chemical companies and underground laboratories for its supply. The trade has been supported by a customer base so eager for the substance that for years it turned a blind eye to its potentially deadly effects. Traditionally used in the manufacture of plastics and leather, melamine has made its way into the food supply in a way that was never supposed to happen.

Initially covered up by officials afraid of losing their jobs and besmirching the Beijing Olympic Games, the melamine contamination scandal began with infant milk formula that killed at least four infants and sickened 54,000 babies. It soon spread to candy, instant coffee, yogurt, biscuits and other products made with Chinese milk, prompting bans or recalls in 16 countries.

In recent weeks the toxin has been discovered in eggs and in animal feed, sparking fears that tainted foods go well beyond dairy products and may include fish, shrimp, beef and poultry.

“Almost all the animal feed companies I know added protein powder to their product until this September. So did our factory,” said a sales manager surnamed Li, in a branch factory of the Liuhe Group, a large animal feed company in Shandong province. “Of course, no one dares to add it now.” …… (more details from washingtonpost)

Posted in Business, Businessman, China, Company, Economy, Food, Health, Hebei, Law, Life, Made in China, medicine, News, North China, People, products, Shijiazhuang, Social, Tainted Products, World | Comments Off on Retracing the Path Toxic Powder Took To Food in China

Tainted and Fake Medicine Made In China A Big Safety Concern, FDA Unable to Fully Inspect

Posted by Author on November 9, 2008


By GARDINER HARRIS, New York Times, USA, October 31, 2008-

In the belly of an industrial district south of Lyon, France, just past a sulfurous oil refinery and a synthetic vanilla plant, sits a run-down, eight-story factory that makes aspirin, the first pharmaceutical blockbuster. The Lyon factory is the last of its kind. No other major facility in Europe or the United States makes generic aspirin anymore. The market has been taken over by low-cost Chinese producers. Even Bayer, the German company that created aspirin in the 1890s and has fought for more than a century to distinguish its product as the most trustworthy one, now has backup supplies from China.

The Lyon plant is owned by a French chemical giant named Rhodia that has been making aspirin since 1908 and still accounts for more than 25 percent of the world’s aspirin market. But now a century after its entry into the business, the company intends to quit making aspirin altogether. The plant was last renovated in 1992, and it would need an upgrade to continue operating, an investment the company can no longer justify in what has become a cutthroat business. In fact, Rhodia is closing another factory about 40 miles to the south. This one makes the painkiller acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol. It, too, is the last such facility in Western Europe.

In some ways, this is a nonevent. European factories close; Chinese ones open. Consumers like their commodities cheap, in the case of aspirin as with everything else. China now produces about two-thirds of all aspirin and is poised to become the world’s sole global supplier in the not-too-distant future.

But are the Chinese factories safe? Who knows? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and other competent government regulators rarely, if ever, inspect them. (By contrast, Rhodia’s plant was last inspected by the F.D.A. in July and is routinely inspected by one country or another.) Companies that import Chinese pharmaceutical ingredients, including aspirin, are required to test the supplies before using them, and some send private inspectors to China to ensure that suppliers use adequate controls. No pharmaceutical maker wants its name to become synonymous with disaster, and the vast majority of drugs that are consumed in the United States are safe. But some industry executives told me that price sensitivity in the generics industry makes it more difficult to fully vet their low-cost suppliers.

In China, where thousands of drug manufacturers sell products in the local markets, profit margins are razor thin, and counterfeiting and contamination are common. In 2002, the Pharmaceutical Association, a Chinese trade group, estimated that as much as 8 percent of over-the-counter drugs sold in China are counterfeit. Contaminated products extend beyond drugs, as was made tragically clear this fall when four Chinese babies died and 53,000 were sickened by melamine, a toxic chemical illegally added to watered-down baby formula to artificially increase the protein count and fool quality tests.

Though no melamine-tainted baby formula from China was found in the United States, it has shown up in other countries. This is the latest in a series of food- and drug-safety scandals. China has in recent years exported poisonous toothpaste, deadly dog food, toys made with lead paint and tainted fish. In one infamous example this spring, Chinese manufacturers substituted a cheap fake for the dried pig intestines used to make the drug heparin, which is given to dialysis and surgery patients to prevent blood clotting. As deaths among those taking the drug mounted, the F.D.A. discovered the taint and banned the contaminated drug. In the end, 81 people may have died from allergic reactions, and tens of thousands around the world were exposed to danger. F.D.A. officials admitted that the agency should never have approved the Chinese-made heparin for sale in the United States; the agency, it turned out, had never inspected the Chinese plant making it.

Concerns about Chinese drugs have become so intense that just three weeks ago, the Health and Human Services secretary, Michael O. Leavitt, announced that the F.D.A. would open an office in Beijing by the end of the year and offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou next year. The agency still plans to send inspectors to China from the U.S., but the offices will provide “an infrastructure that will make those people more effective,” Leavitt said at the time of the announcement.

China’s leap to one of the biggest suppliers of pharmaceutical ingredients in the world happened over the last decade, as the Chinese government subsidized the construction of manufacturing plants that have undercut prices everywhere. Generic drug makers in the United States, where price competition is fierce, were the first to seek cheaper drug ingredients in China. Last year, generic drug applications to the F.D.A. listed 1,154 plants providing active pharmaceutical ingredients: 43 percent of them were in China, and another 39 percent were in India. Only 13 percent were in the United States. Branded drug makers, with their fatter profit margins, resisted buying ingredients from China for years, but with their businesses now suffering, even major pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Baxter and Pfizer have announced deals to outsource manufacturing to China.

I have been writing about the drug industry for more than a decade, but I have rarely written about a subject that both branded and generic drug makers wanted to discuss less. Nearly all of the industry executives who spoke for this article did so anonymously. Even the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a normally loquacious trade group, was largely silent on the issue. Not one of them, it seems, wants to talk too much about the difficulty of regulating factories across several times zones, 6,000 miles and a vast linguistic and cultural divide.

The F.D.A. regulates more than $1 trillion worth of consumer goods, which amounts to about 25 cents of every consumer dollar spent in this country. This includes $466 billion in food sales, $275 billion in drugs, $60 billion in cosmetics and $18 billion in vitamin supplements. The agency is responsible for monitoring a third of all imported goods, from eggplant to eyeliner, microwave ovens to monoclonal antibodies, slaughterhouses to cellphones. But with fewer than 500 import inspectors and computer systems so old that repairmen must be called out of retirement to fix them, the agency is increasingly beset by a sense of futility.

Even the F.D.A.’s staunchest defenders now acknowledge that something is terribly wrong. Among them is Peter Barton Hutt, who served as the agency’s general counsel during the Nixon administration and is widely considered the dean of the F.D.A. bar in Washington. I’ve interviewed Hutt dozens of times over the years, and he has always defended the F.D.A. No more. “This is a fundamentally broken agency,” Hutt told me earlier this year, “and it needs to be repaired.”

The breakdown is not simply about money. This summer 1,442 people around the country were sickened by tainted tomatoes — or possibly jalepeño peppers. Such scares have become familiar, and the inability to quickly find the sources of contamination has been one of the agency’s signal failures. A 2002 law requires produce processors and distributors to keep track of where food goes and comes from, but the government has yet to mandate standardized record-keeping. As a result, in response to a scare, investigators must pour over a blizzard of contradictory packing slips and incompatible computer programs as they race to save people.

To ensure the safety of imported drugs, the F.D.A. relies almost entirely on its own inspections of foreign plants. This was not much of a problem 30 years ago, when most medical products consumed in the United States were made here and F.D.A. inspectors could drive around to plants in their district. Most of those plants have since moved abroad, and now decades can pass between inspections. Testifying before Congress in April, Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the F.D.A.’s drug center, spoke with rare frankness about the ability of the agency to do its job abroad. “The F.D.A. of the last century is not configured to regulate this century’s globalized pharmaceutical industry,” she testified.

Other current and former F.D.A. officials I talked to echoed Woodcock’s warning. Tim Wells, who was a field investigator and then a compliance officer for 24 years at the F.D.A., now does private audits of drug plants and sees the holes in the agency’s safety net. “A company I recently visited abroad hasn’t been inspected for 10 years,” he told me.

Besides being more frequent, domestic inspections are unannounced and more intense. And when inspectors find dangerous conditions at domestic plants, they generally return promptly to ensure that those conditions get fixed. Not so in foreign plants. In a report released Oct. 22, government auditors reported that between 2002 and 2007, F.D.A. inspectors found dangerous conditions in 15 foreign plants. Only one of those plants was reinspected within two years, the auditors found. In every other case, the agency took foreign managers at their word that promised changes were made.

The record is particularly bad in China. Over the past six years, the F.D.A. has managed to inspect annually an average of just 15 of the 714 Chinese drug plants that export to the United States. At its present pace, the F.D.A. would need more than 50 years to visit all of these Chinese plants. By contrast, the F.D.A. inspects domestic drug plants every 2.7 years.

Inspectors volunteer for the grueling overseas assignments, and, it turns out, they don’t much like traveling to parts of Asia. “I went to Taiwan once, and after initially spending a night in a very nice hotel, I was transferred several hours by car to a hotel closer to the plant,” recalls DeVaughn Edwards, who worked as an F.D.A. inspector for 14 years until he left in 2006. “The bed consisted of two mattresses on the floor. There was no lock on the door. You had to hope that no one came in. It was dark; there were no amenities, no TV that worked. There was a shared restroom down the hall. It was only one night there, but it was enough to make you not want to revisit the plant or spend too much time there.”

When inspectors do go to China, their reports sometimes read like a bureaucratic rendering of Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad.” During a 2001 trip, for example, two F.D.A. inspectors visited a plant that was exporting acetaminophen to the United States. The plant had never been inspected. “The F.D.A. inspection team was met at the hotel in Wenzhou by representatives from Wenzhou No. 3 Pharmaceutical Factory and . . . transported by public ferry and then company vehicle to the manufacturing facility on Dong Tou Island off the coast of Wenzhou,” their report states. “There is no street address or plot number, and the address of the facility is given only by the county and province.”

Once the team arrived in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, the inspectors learned the drug was being manufactured at another plant — one that once had a similar name but had recently changed it. “In fact,” the report continues, “inspection found that there were initially three separate and independent firms operating under the names Wenzhou No. 1 Pharmaceutical Factory, Wenzhou No. 2 Pharmaceutical Factory and Wenzhou No. 3 Pharmaceutical Factory. The location of Wenzhou No. 1 Pharmaceutical Factory was also determined by the F.D.A. inspection team during the visit to Wenzhou, and it was learned that the firm is operating under a new Chinese name; however, the English translation of that name was not available.” So the two inspectors flew back to the

United States — at taxpayers’ expense — never having inspected a thing.

The F.D.A.’s apparent inability to keep names straight is no trivial matter. One reason the agency failed to inspect the Changzhou plant that produced deadly heparin, for instance, was that someone mixed up the facility’s name and concluded that the plant had already been inspected. Chinese plant names, a vestige of its once strictly controlled economy, are often very similar, and translations can vary. For instance, there are 57 separate drug master files — the basic F.D.A. record of a plant’s name, location and approved product — with “Shanghai” in the name. Some are obvious repeats, like the ones for “Shanghai No. 6 Pharmaceutical Factory” and “Shanghai Number 6 Pharmaceutical Factory.” But others could be separate plants. Or maybe not. It’s just too hard to tell.

Compounding the problem is the F.D.A.’s antiquated technology. Its computer systems are so awful that officials have no way of knowing which names, or which plants, are real. To determine which factories need to be inspected, agency investigators must consult two incompatible databases, one of which lists 3,000 foreign drug plants exporting to the United States and the other 6,800. Which number is right? Nobody really knows. Officials have told House investigators that their best guess for the number of foreign drug plants exporting to the United States is 2,967, while the Government Accountability Office recently guessed 3,249. Neither can the agency tell in many cases when the plants were last inspected (or, more important, which have never been inspected), where they are located or what products they make……. (more details from The NewYork Times: The Safety Gap)

Related:
Alarming: Tainted Food = Terrorism ?

Posted in Asia, Business, China, Company, Counterfeit, Economy, Food, Health, Law, Life, Made in China, medical, medicine, News, People, products, Social, Tainted Products, USA, World | 1 Comment »

Contaminated IV Medicine in Chinese Hospitals Causing at least 5 Deaths

Posted by Author on October 16, 2008


Epoch Times Staff,  Oct 14, 2008  –

At least 5 hospital patients died after receiving intravenous medicine in separate incidents in China this month, and many others became ill.

Three patients in southwestern China died after receiving the intravenous medicine called Ciwujia Fluid. The medicine was produced by the Wandashan Drug Company in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China. The patients received the medicine at the No. 4 People’s Hospital in Honghezhou, Kaiyuan City, Yunan Province.

The medicine, Ciwujia Fluid, contains the herbal extract ciwujia. The herb is used in medicines and sports drinks, including some consumed in countries outside China. Ciwujia is itself safe, but batches of the medicine in different parts of China have been found to be contaminated with insects, mold, or other foreign matter. The multiple sources suggest sloppy handling in several different processing plants in different regions of China.

Altogether 19 patients received an intravenous injection of this particular medicine, said Yang Ru, the director of the hospital. These patients developed nausea, shortness of breath and shivering after receiving the medicine. The patients who died passed away within three days of being  given the drug. Three other patients remain in critical condition.

An administrator, Sun Yuemin, from the No. 2 Affiliated Hospital of the Kunming Medical Institute, said that all the patients who had developed adverse reactions had received Ciwujia exclusively. Some of the patients even had reactions while receiving the transfusion. Therefore, the hospital decided that Ciwujia was the likely cause of the patients’ reactions.

In August, the Kaiyuan City People’s Hospital had two patients who developed similar reactions after an intravenous transfusion of Ciwujia, according to Zeng Jianhe, deputy director of Honghezhou Health Bureau. However, the Ciwujia in both cases belonged to a different batch of the product.

Another two cases were reported in Qujing City of patients dying after an injection of Ciwujia.

Authorities believe that the Ciwujia, in all cases, was contaminated with a pathological microorganism.

Contamination in the South

In another case of contaminated intravenous fluid, Guangzhou Daily reported that the Gaoming District Huali Hospital in Fushan City, Guangdong Province had found foreign objects in intravenous fluids on three separate occasions. Two of the objects appeared to be insects, while another object was suspected to be mold.

The hospital, however, returned the contaminated medicine to the producer and no one was victimized in the incidents. The intravenous fluid in all three cases came from the same batch that was produced by the Litai Group Co. Ltd. in Guangdong Province.

The Epochtimes

Posted in China, Health, Life, Made in China, medicine, News, People, products, Social, South China, Tainted Products, World | 1 Comment »

Tainted Medicine Scares in China

Posted by Author on October 14, 2008


Radio Free Asia, 2008-10-13 –

Amid fallout over contaminated milk powder, two new scares over possibly tainted medical supplies in China have come to light.

HONG KONG—Health authorities in China say two batches of an injection fluid containing Siberian ginseng are “substandard” following laboratory tests, after three people died in the southwest of the country.

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have recalled two batches of ginseng injection vials following the deaths, which came after patients received the medication by injection.

Sun Yuemin, director of the No. 2 Hospital under the Kunming Medical School, was quoted in official media as saying it was clear from the appearance of the packaging that the color of the liquid varied from bottle to bottle, and the contents appeared turbid.

Six patients at the No. 4 People’s Hospital in Honghe Autonomous Prefecture suffered strong adverse reactions, including vomiting and becoming comatose, after being injected with ciwujia Siberian ginseng extract from the two batches, Sun said.

Calls to Sun’s office during working hours went unanswered on Friday.

Further tests are still being carried out on the ginseng fluid after three people died in hospital last week.

Recall ordered

Manufactured in December by Wandashan Pharmaceutical, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, the two batches were ordered recalled after the deaths of three people who had received the injections.

A Wandashan employee surnamed Zhang said the company was still waiting for the full lab tests.

“The main thing is that the results of the investigation haven’t yet been published,” the employee, surnamed Zhou, said. “They didn’t get enough samples for testing from the two recalled batches, so we’re still waiting.”

Health Ministry experts have run tests on hundreds of samples of “Cuwujia Injection” herbal remedies, extracted from a variety of Siberian ginseng, which is often used to treat thrombosis caused by weak liver and kidneys.

It is also believed to be helpful in treating coronary heart disease, nervous exhaustion, and menopausal problems in traditional Chinese medicine.

They have so far found no toxins, such as rat poison, pesticide, or herbicide. Further investigations are now under way into the cause of the three deaths.

But they did say the two batches were “substandard,” official media reported……. (more details from Radio Free Asia)

Posted in China, Food, Health, Life, Made in China, medicine, News, People, products, Social, SW China, Tainted Products, World, Yunnan | Comments Off on Tainted Medicine Scares in China

S. Korea says tonnes of unsafe Chinese herbal medicine destroyed

Posted by Author on October 2, 2008


AFP, Oct.1, 2008-

SEOUL (AFP) — South Korea destroyed 871 tonnes of imported Chinese herbal medicine ingredients over the past two years because they contained excessive level of toxins, official figures showed Wednesday.

The Korea Food and Drug Administration told parliament in a report that the imports had higher than permitted amounts of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic as well as sulphur dioxide.

South Korea last year imported 19,650 tonnes of Chinese herbs and other material for oriental medicines, 78 percent of the total imports.

The report came amid a new scare about Chinese food safety after melamine was found in infant milk formula, sickening nearly 53,000 children and killing four in China.

South Korea banned the import of all products containing Chinese powdered milk and has been inspecting 428 brands of Chinese imported food already on sale.

As of Tuesday, it had found that six of the 186 items checked so far were contaminated with melamine.

AFP

Posted in Asia, China, Economy, Food, Health, Life, Made in China, medicine, News, Politics, products, South Korea, Tainted Products, World | Comments Off on S. Korea says tonnes of unsafe Chinese herbal medicine destroyed

Contaminated Heparin Made in China Related To More Than 62 Suspected Deaths

Posted by Author on April 23, 2008


Federal regulators ban shipments from the Chinese plant that made the drug, blamed for as many as 81 deaths. They announce a breakthrough in understanding how it sickened patients.

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, April 22, 2008-

WASHINGTON — A contaminated blood thinner from China suspected in dozens of U.S. deaths has become a worldwide public health problem, with 10 other countries detecting the often-toxic ingredient, federal investigators said Monday.

The compound, which in tests mimics the real blood thinner heparin but which costs less to make, may have been added deliberately somewhere along a production chain that began on farms in China, beyond the reach of U.S. regulators.

Food and Drug Administration officials issued a warning letter Monday that banned future U.S. shipments from the plant in China that supplied the widely used blood thinner until the safety issues are resolved. And officials raised the possible death toll from 62 to 81.

At the same time, the FDA announced a major scientific breakthrough in its attempt to understand how patients got sick from the contaminated heparin.

The developments came on the eve of a congressional hearing expected to show that the FDA lacks the resources to carry out adequate inspection of thousands of foreign facilities now producing a significant share of the medications consumed here.

“Contamination of the heparin supply is a worldwide problem,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. About a dozen Chinese facilities have been identified as being part of the supply chain that handled contaminated heparin.

The widely used blood thinner is given to patients to prevent dangerous clots when they undergo kidney dialysis or heart surgery. The ingredient that contaminated the drug, a chemically modified form of a common nutritional supplement, has been shown in laboratory and animal tests to cause the dangerous reactions that some patients experienced, Woodcock said. These included a sudden drop in blood pressure, leading to shock.

Woodcock explained that the contaminant — a compound called an over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate — can trigger chemicals in blood cells that produce serious allergic-type reactions.

These chemicals, called blood mediators, are often spurred into action when a wound is opened, helping to generate new blood vessels around the wound and drawing in antibodies to clean up damaged areas, said Marilyn Halonen, a pharmacology professor at the University of Arizona.

But blood mediators also can cause a drop in blood pressure and other reactions in patients who receive large doses of contaminated heparin.

“If this compound is getting to a lot of cells at once, it’s causing a mediator storm,” Halonen said. The FDA’s Woodcock said the dangerous reactions seen in U.S. patients and some in Germany may be linked to large intravenous doses of contaminated heparin.

“It does appear that the route of administration, the amount and how fast it’s administered may play a role,” she said.

Chinese officials, however, have remained skeptical of the existence of such a link. At a Chinese Embassy news conference Monday, senior public health officials said they doubted the evidence linking the contaminant to serious side effects. Instead, they urged a look at the U.S. facilities of Baxter Healthcare Corp., the Illinois-based company that imported heparin from China and distributed it in the U.S.

The FDA and Baxter have maintained that the source of the problem is in China.

Heparin is produced from a naturally occurring substance found in the lining of pigs’ intestines, and the process involves several layers of middlemen and suppliers. The contaminant could have been added in to make the drug seem more potent, or it could have been introduced accidentally.

On Monday, the FDA cited Baxter’s supplier in China for “significant deviations” from U.S. manufacturing practices. That supplier, Changzhou SPL, is a joint venture company partly owned by Wisconsin-based Scientific Protein Laboratories.

In its warning letter, the FDA said it found problems with the process used by the Chinese plant to remove impurities from heparin, and also with the company’s system for evaluating its suppliers. Changzhou SPL responded with a statement saying many of the concerns the FDA cited had already been corrected. But the agency says it will require more proof before the Changzhou plant is allowed to export to the U.S. again.

In a report to be released today at a House hearing, investigators from the congressional Government Accountability Office found that the agency’s budget for foreign inspections is not up to the task. The FDA has about $11 million for foreign inspections this year, but it would need about $70 million a year to inspect foreign pharmaceutical plants every two years, the rate for U.S. establishments. It would need $16 million a year to inspect the estimated 714 drug-manufacturing facilities in China alone.

Original report from Los Angeles Times: Contaminated blood thinner heparin called a worldwide problem

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China Media’s Organ Donation Report Raises Concern

Posted by Author on April 19, 2008


By Shi Yu, Epoch Times Staff, Apr 15, 2008-The Qi Lu Evening Newspaper reported on April 4, 2008

An article published in the April 4th edition of Qi Lu Evening , a newspaper in Shandong Province in eastern China, has attracted people’s attention and recently circulated throughout the Internet.

It reported that a young man temporarily working in Jinan City decided to donate his corneas after a kidney failure diagnosis. However, several major hospitals throughout the area explained that they were “not qualified” to accept the donation. An official in the Ophthalmology Department of the Jinan Central Hospital even mentioned that none of the corneas used by his department came from donations.

This report revisits the concern over the source of organs used for transplants in mainland China. Since witnesses testified on March 9, 2006 that China harvests organs from live Falun Gong practitioners at a hospital in Sujiatun, Shenyang City in northwestern China, Beijing has been confronted with increasing concern over the source of the country’s organ supply. Chinese authorities continue to proclaim that organs come mainly from donations, however the Qi Lu Evening report has further stoked public doubt.

(Photo at right: The Qi Lu Evening Newspaper reported on April 4, 2008 that many hospitals in Shandong Province are not qualified to accept donated organs./The Epoch Times)

Dr. Wang Wenyi, a practicing physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City has long dedicated herself to the investigation of the Chinese regime’s harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. She pointed out that to cover up the organ-harvesting atrocity the Chinese regime has repeatedly lied to the world. When questioned on the source of the organ supply in China, the regime initially claimed that they were donated, but later they admitted that the organs were harvested from death row criminals. However, the large number of organs being used for transplants in recent years, added by the short waiting period for matching organs, indicates the existence of a living organ bank consisting mostly of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners.

The Qi Lu report described the case of Wei Linying, a 29-year-old man temporarily working in Jinan. Diagnosed with serious kidney failure in February, Wei decided to donate his corneas after his death. To help him find a place for donation, his family members came to Jinan and asked the Qi Lu reporter for assistance.

On the afternoon of April 4, the reporter called the Jinan municipal branch office and provincial and municipal branch offices of the Red Cross Society of China, the Shandong Ophthalmology Hospital and the Jinan Central Hospital. All of these medical institutions replied that they were not qualified to accept organ donations.

China expert Zhang Jielian says that the situation in Shandong province is the same across China. Because of their past traditions, Chinese people are not in the habit of donating their organs; as a result, there is no organ donor program in the country. Therefore, donation is not a likely major source for China’s organ supply.

On November 7, 2005, at WHO (World Health Organization) meeting in Manila, China’s Deputy Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted that the Chinese communist regime had been harvesting organs from executed criminals. This was the first official confession the regime made of this practice.

On March 9, 2006, the organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners at the Sujiatun labor camp in Shenyang City was exposed. Confronted with shock and condemnation from the international community, the regime kept silent for 20 days before the regime’s foreign affair spokesman Qin Gang finally denied the allegation, arguing that all organ transplants were legal and had been agreed upon by the donors. Qin proclaimed that most of the organs were donated by patients’ relatives or victims of traffic accidents.

In November 2006, Huang Jiefu repeated in a meeting in Guangzhou that most of the transplanted organs in China were from criminals of death penalty.

In a BBC interview on Nov. 1, 2007, the Chinese regime’s Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qunan restated that “most of the transplanted organs were from criminals of death penalty.”

Dr. Wang Wenyi, who protested at the White House against Chinese leader Hu Jintao during his state visit on April 20, 2006, said the quantity of organs available from the executed criminals is far lower than the actual number of transplant operations, and it cannot explain why the organ donors can be identified within such a short time, either. She says that the regime’s explanation of harvesting organs from executed criminals is simply to divert public attention away from the organ harvesting of live Falun Gong practitioners.

Dr. Wang said once foreign patients receive notification from hospitals in China and make their payment, the transplant operation can proceed in as little as three days. In most cases, patients receive their organs within a week. Therefore, a “criminal”—with matching blood and tissue types—would have to be executed just a few days before, and be willing to donate his or her organs.

Dr. Wang believes that there is only one possibility to explain this coincidence— there exists an organ bank in China where live donors, whose blood and tissue types have been pre-recorded, can be retrieved whenever a paying customer needs one.

Referring to the Chinese regime’s official data, which mentions that 90,000 organ transplants were conducted before 2005, Wang estimates that 41,500 transplants should have taken place between 2000 and 2005. However, this number far exceeds the criminals executed in China over that time period. Without any other reasonable explanation, the only possible source of organs would be the large population of Falun Gong practitioners whose whereabouts are unknown after being arrested during the past eight years.

An independent Canadian delegate investigation published two reports in 2006, providing substantial evidence to illustrate that such “an evil that has never occurred on earth” has been truly ongoing.

In a report issued by the “World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong” (WOIPFG) in late 2007, the organization has interviewed several Chinese officials, including the coordinator of the kidney source in the Beijing 307 People’s Liberation Army Hospital, the chief and clerk associated with the No. 1 Criminal Court in the Jinzhou Intermediate People’s Court, and the surgeon in charge of kidney transplants at the Guangxi People’s Hospital. The interviewees’ testimony all indicates that a widespread program for organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners is still ongoing in China.

Original report from The Epochtimes: Chinese Hospitals Do Not Accept Donated Organs

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Two US Companies Sued by Federal Prosecutors Over Toxic Chinese Toothpaste

Posted by Author on March 7, 2008


AFP, Mar. 5, 2008-

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Federal and state prosecutors on Thursday brought criminal charges against two US companies that allegedly imported toxic toothpaste from China, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office said in a statement.

The charges were brought in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration against “two local (California) companies found importing and distributing more than 70,000 tubes of toothpaste manufactured in China which contain the poisonous chemical diethylene glycol (DEG),” it said.

The president and vice president of Vernon Sales, Inc. were charged with “14 criminal counts for receiving, selling and delivering an adulterated drug — any product containing a banned substance.”

The two top company executives for Selective Imports Corp. were also charged with “two criminal counts each for receiving, selling and delivering products containing DEG.”

The city attorney said each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a 1,000 dollar fine. DEG is commonly used as a thickening agent as well as in solvents and antifreeze.

The FDA issued a warning about DEG in Chinese-made toothpaste known as Cooldent, as well as more than 10 other brands, in June, 2007, advising consumers not to purchase the low-cost toothpaste typically sold at discount stores and to check labels.

“Investigators believe Selective Imports Corporation and Vernon Sales, Inc., in just the last 12 months alone, distributed 480 tubes of ‘Cooldent’ toothpaste containing DEG to stores and businesses in the city of Los Angeles, most of which was placed on store shelves for purchase by the public,” it said.

– Original report from AFP: US companies sued over toxic Chinese toothpaste

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US Says Contaminated Blood-thinner Came From China

Posted by Author on March 7, 2008


AFP, Mar. 5, 2008-

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Batches of the recalled blood thinner heparin, which contained an unidentified contaminant and has been linked to 19 deaths, have ingredients that came from China, the US government said Thursday.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which added that Germany has announced its own recall of heparin due to allergic reactions, has yet to prove that the contaminant was the cause of the deaths as well as other adverse health effects.

But the FDA said that all the US batches of heparin linked to health problems and deaths were made with ingredients that came from China.

“At this point, we do not know whether the introduction was accidental or whether it was deliberate,” said FDA deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock.

“We don’t know if any of the heparin products worldwide might contain this contaminant and that is something we are going to be looking into.”

Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) tests performed on the anti-coagulants showed that up to 20 percent of the active ingredient in the medication contained the unknown contaminant, the FDA said.

On February 11, the FDA announced a limited recall of Baxter International pharmaceuticals’ multi-dose heparin and on February 28 the lab expanded the recall to include nearly all heparin being produced.

The injectable drug is made in part from pig intestines. Baxter’s supplier, Scientific Protein Laboratories based in Wisconsin, sometimes buys the raw ingredients from unregulated shops in China, according to the New York Times.

However, Wayne Pines, a spokesman for Scientific Protein Laboratories said there was “no evidence of counterfeiting or tampering or anything of that nature.”

“No one really knows what happened here,” he said.

The FDA has so far received 785 complaints of health problems as well as 46 reports of death, but Woodcock said that the FDA determined that only 19 of the deaths were linked to the drug. Baxter maintains that four people have died as a result of the drug.

The Times said that the FDA has admitted to violating “its own policies by failing to inspect Scientific Protein’s China plant before approving the drug for sale.”

FDA inspectors who visited a plant in Changzou that makes the drug components for US production found “at least some heparin was made from ‘material from an unacceptable workshop vendor.’

Original report from AFP

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China: Trial of Pharmaceutical Company Exposes Counterfeit Medicine Production

Posted by Author on August 22, 2007


The Epoch Times, Aug 21, 2007-

On August 8 2007, Guangzhou City Intermediate People’s Court held criminal proceedings of a well-known counterfeit medicine manufacturing case. Five people from Qiqihar No.2 Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, were criminally charged with, “causing a major liability accident.”

The well-known pharmaceutical manufacturer Qiqihar No.2 Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. held a national GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice; drug production quality control standard) certification. Its pharmaceuticals were sold all over the country.

The five people on trial included one general manager, two deputy general managers, one laboratory director and one purchaser. The people concerned control the company’s purchasing, quality control, sales and production.

According to a Chinese report on Xkb.com.cn, dated August 9, once in court the five defendants exposed a lot of inside information detailing counterfeit medicine production:

1. Purchasing Division – “Cannot Understand Quality Control Report from Vendor”

Mr. Niu Zhongren, the only individual responsible for purchasing raw materials, was only a junior high school graduate. He cited being “unbearably busy,” and replaced the mandatory “field inspections” and “sample testing” with simple “phone calls” in the purchasing process. Mr. Niu believed that drug production quality control was a matter for the Quality Control Division, so it did not fall within his scope of responsibilities. He also claimed that he “could not understand the quality control reports from vendors.”

2. Approval Link – “GMP Certification Was Bought”

Mr. Guo Xingping was the deputy-general manager of the company. He was in charge of purchases, storage and distribution. The prosecution questioned him about why GMP certification requirements were not met. He was asked why in the absence of field investigations and sample testing was the company allowed to purchase drug supplies.

Answering the question, Mr. Xingping used an analogy, “This is like buying pork. If you go to buy two catties of pork (one catty equals 1.1 pounds) but you suspect that the pork contains clenobuterol hydrochloride (a banned substance). Would you go to a pig farm to do the field investigation?”

As for the GMP certificate, Mr. Guo claimed that the certification, that was supposed to be approved by the regulating body, the Provincial Medicine Regulation Department and registered in the National Medicine Regulation Department, was purchased by the company. “It is just a disc that contains all the documents. The company bought it for 100,000 yuan (USD$13,150)! It is completely impractical for operating in real life” said Mr. Guo.

3. Laboratory Testing Stage

“Of the eleven laboratory technicians, there are only a few who actually have the relevant industry knowledge. Most people are not trained” Ms Chen Guifen was the Laboratory Director of the company.

When she tested a batch of “propylene glycol,” she found the relative density of the batch was not acceptable. However, she did not perform more lab tests to further identify the problem. She wrote false inspection reports following the instructions of Deputy General Manager Zhu Chuahua, who was in charge of quality control.

Ms Chen said, “Of the eleven laboratory technicians, there are only a few who actually have the relevant industry knowledge. Most people are not trained. Many did not even have work permits.”

4. Production and Quality Control Division

“It is the company’s unspoken rule that if raw materials are substandard, we need to approve them (by Inspection Report)”. Deputy General Manager Zhu Chuahua was in charge of the Quality Control Division.

He knew the batch of propylene glycol was a counterfeit product, and that its relative density was not acceptable. In addition, the company’s facilities were ill equipped and the lab technicians were not technically qualified. However, he told Ms Guo to file false inspection reports.

Mr. Zhu said, “It is the company’s unspoken rule that if raw materials are substandard, we need to approve them (by way of an Inspection Report)”. He added, “This is the way it has always been done”.

5. The Final Comment

“When raw materials are first received, employees are each responsible for their specific task. I don’t necessarily know what that might be .”As the general manager of the company, Mr. Yin Jiade denied his responsibility; even though he knew most of his staff were not technically qualified. Mr. Yin said, “When raw materials are first received employees are each responsible for their specific task. I don’t necessarily know what that might be.”

According to the report, 13 people in Guangzhou have died because of the medicine and dozens of victims want to file claims for more than 20 million yuan (US$2,630,129) in damages.

Original report from the Epochtimes

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China Executed Drug Official With a Lot Problems to Resolve

Posted by Author on July 11, 2007


By JOSEPH KAHN, New York Times, United States, Jul.11, 2007-

BEIJING, July 10 — China executed its former top food and drug regulator on Tuesday for taking bribes to approve untested medicine, as the Beijing leadership scrambled to show that it was serious about improving the safety of Chinese products.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court carried out the death sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, shortly after the country’s Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.

Mr. Zheng, who had appealed his May 29 sentence on the grounds that it was too severe and that he had confessed to the bribery charges against him, became the first ministerial-level official put to death since 2000 and the fourth since China opened its doors to the outside world nearly 30 years ago.

The official Xinhua news agency announced the execution, but did not say how Mr. Zheng was killed. In most cases, the court police execute prisoners by shooting them in the back of the head, though recently the police have also used lethal injections.

China carries out more court-ordered executions than the rest of the world combined, according to human rights groups. But the sentence against Mr. Zheng was unusually harsh and its execution uncommonly swift.

The country’s Supreme Court has recently made a highly publicized effort to show that it carefully reviews all death sentences and that it has restricted the power of local courts to impose them.

But Mr. Zheng’s case appears to have served a political purpose, allowing senior leaders to show that they have begun confronting the country’s poor product-safety record. Shoddy or dangerous goods, including drugs, pet food and car tires, have damaged its reputation abroad, especially in the United States.

China is the world’s largest exporter of consumer products, and tainted goods represent a small fraction of the country’s more than $1 trillion in annual exports. But officials clearly worry that protectionist forces in the United States could use the spate of quality problems to restrict trade.

On the same day that Mr. Zheng was executed, representatives of the country’s leading food and drug regulatory bodies held a joint news conference to emphasize their determination to crack down on fake and counterfeit food and medicine.

After weeks of denying serious problems or blaming foreign forces for exaggerating the issue, officials have recently begun to strike a less defensive tone. One senior official acknowledged that the food and drug safety network still allowed too many unsafe goods to slip through, and said that at the moment the trend was “not promising.”

“As a developing country, China’s current food and drug safety situation is not very satisfactory because supervision of food and drug safety started late,” said that official, Yan Jiangying, deputy policy director of the State Food and Drug Administration, the agency Mr. Zheng headed. “Its foundation is weak, so the supervision of food and drug safety is not easy.”

Asked about the death sentence, Ms. Yan said: “Corruption in the food and drug authority has brought shame to the nation. What we will have to learn from the experience is to improve our work and emphasize public safety.”

Regulators said their ability to monitor food and drug purity would greatly increase by 2010, when they expect to have enhanced their ability to respond to accidents and to have established a national product recall system.

The authorities said that inspectors would start shifting posts more often to prevent corruption, and that they would check a wide range of goods more frequently to ferret out fakes.

But they acknowledged that they faced challenges in eliminating unsafe products. China has 200 million farms, many of them less than an acre in size. It has nearly 450,000 food processing companies, nearly 80 percent with 10 employees or fewer, said Lin Wei, a senior official at the National Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

“This is our national condition,” Mr. Lin said. “It is our hope that by 2010 we can reduce the number of small food workshops by 50 percent and effectively curb law breaking and counterfeiting.”

…… more details from New York Times’ report: China Quick to Execute Drug Official

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From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

Posted by Author on May 7, 2007


By WALT BOGDANICH and JAKE HOOKER, new york times, May 6, 2007-

IN CHINA At least 18 people, most of them in Guangdong Province, died in a month last year after they ingested contaminated medicine.

The kidneys fail first. Then the central nervous system begins to misfire. Paralysis spreads, making breathing difficult, then often impossible without assistance. In the end, most victims die.

Many of them are children, poisoned at the hands of their unsuspecting parents.

The syrupy poison, diethylene glycol, is an indispensable part of the modern world, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze.

It is also a killer. And the deaths, if not intentional, are often no accident.

Over the years, the poison has been loaded into all varieties of medicine — cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs — a result of counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products.

Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.

Panama is the most recent victim. Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine — with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, The New York Times traced this pipeline from the Panamanian port of Colón, back through trading companies in Barcelona, Spain, and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call “chemical country.”

The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label. Along the way, a certificate falsely attesting to the purity of the shipment was repeatedly altered, eliminating the name of the manufacturer and previous owner. As a result, traders bought the syrup without knowing where it came from, or who made it. With this information, the traders might have discovered — as The Times did — that the manufacturer was not certified to make pharmaceutical ingredients.

An examination of the two poisoning cases last year — in Panama and earlier in China — shows how China’s safety regulations have lagged behind its growing role as low-cost supplier to the world. It also demonstrates how a poorly policed chain of traders in country after country allows counterfeit medicine to contaminate the global market.

Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration warned drug makers and suppliers in the United States “to be especially vigilant” in watching for diethylene glycol. The warning did not specifically mention China, and it said there was “no reason to believe” that glycerin in this country was tainted. Even so, the agency asked that all glycerin shipments be tested for diethylene glycol, and said it was “exploring how supplies of glycerin become contaminated.”

China is already being accused by United States authorities of exporting wheat gluten containing an industrial chemical, melamine, that ended up in pet food and livestock feed. The F.D.A. recently banned imports of Chinese-made wheat gluten after it was linked to pet deaths in the United States.

Beyond Panama and China, toxic syrup has caused mass poisonings in Haiti, Bangladesh, Argentina, Nigeria and twice in India.

In Bangladesh, investigators found poison in seven brands of fever medication in 1992, but only after countless children died. A Massachusetts laboratory detected the contamination after Dr. Michael L. Bennish, a pediatrician who works in developing countries, smuggled samples of the tainted syrup out of the country in a suitcase. Dr. Bennish, who investigated the Bangladesh epidemic and helped write a 1995 article about it for BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, said that given the amount of medication distributed, deaths “must be in the thousands or tens of thousands.” ……

( more details from the new york times )

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