« | »

Drug Scandal For Chinese Supplier Of RU-486

From a terribly shocked New York Times:


A patient in Shanghai who was paralyzed by a tainted drug.

Tainted Drugs Tied to Maker of Abortion Pill

By JAKE HOOKER and WALT BOGDANICH

BEIJING — A huge state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company that exports to dozens of countries, including the United States, is at the center of a nationwide drug scandal after nearly 200 Chinese cancer patients were paralyzed or otherwise harmed last summer by contaminated leukemia drugs.

Chinese drug regulators have accused the manufacturer of the tainted drugs of a cover-up and have closed the factory that produced them. In December, China’s Food and Drug Administration said that the Shanghai police had begun a criminal investigation and that two officials, including the head of the plant, had been detained.

The drug maker, Shanghai Hualian, is the sole supplier to the United States of the abortion pill, mifepristone, known as RU-486. It is made at a factory different from the one that produced the tainted cancer drugs, about an hour’s drive away.

The United States Food and Drug Administration declined to answer questions about Shanghai Hualian, because of security concerns stemming from the sometimes violent opposition to abortion. But in a statement, the agency said the RU-486 plant had passed an F.D.A. inspection in May. “F.D.A. is not aware of any evidence to suggest the issue that occurred at the leukemia drug facility is linked in any way with the facility that manufactures the mifepristone,” the statement said…

Last week, The New York Times asked the F.D.A. whether the Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group exported to the United States any drugs or pharmaceutical ingredients other than the abortion pill. But after repeated requests, the agency declined to provide that information; it did not cite a reason.

On at least two occasions in 2002, Shanghai Hualian had shipments of drugs stopped at the United States border, F.D.A. records show. One shipment was an unapproved antibiotic and the other a diuretic that had “false or misleading labeling.” Records also show that another unit of Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group has filed papers declaring its intention to sell at least five active pharmaceutical ingredients to manufacturers for sale in the United States.

One major pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, declined to buy drug ingredients from Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group because of quality-related issues, said Christopher Loder, a Pfizer spokesman. In 2006, Pfizer agreed to evaluate Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group’s “capabilities” as an ingredient supplier, but so far the company “has not met the standards required by Pfizer,” Mr. Loder said in a statement.

Because of opposition from the anti-abortion movement, the F.D.A. has never publicly identified the maker of the abortion pill for the American market. The pill was first manufactured in France, and since its approval by the F.D.A. in 2000 it has been distributed in the United States by Danco Laboratories. Danco, which does not list a street address on its Web site, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment.

Problems with the cancer drugs first surfaced last summer after leukemia patients received injections of one cancer drug, methotrexate. Afterward, patients experienced leg pain and, in some cases, paralysis. At the People’s Liberation Army No. 307 Hospital in Beijing, a 26-year-old patient, Miao Yuguang, was unable to stand up five days after being injected in the spine with the drug. “We were already unlucky to have this illness,” her father, Miao Futian, said of the leukemia. “Then we ran into this fake drug.”

The authorities recalled two batches of the drug, but issued only mild warnings because the cause of the problem was unclear. Officials with Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group stood by their products, saying that drug regulators investigating the plant had found no problems. But when another cancer drug made in the same factory — cytarabin hydrochloride — also began causing adverse reactions, investigators suspected contamination.

In September, health and drug officials announced that they had found that the two drugs were contaminated with vincristine sulfate, a third cancer drug, during production. After issuing a nationwide alert, the government announced a wider recall, and Shanghai’s drug agency sealed manufacturing units at the plant.

“Many people thought there was a problem with the hospitals,” said Zheng Qiang, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Information and Engineering Research at Peking University. “It wasn’t until later that they discovered the problem was with the medicine.”

Chinese media attention on the case has surged, after a terse statement by China’s drug agency in December, accusing Hualian company officials of a systematic cover-up of violations at the facility that made the drugs.

Family members at the No. 307 hospital have counted 53 victims in Beijing, and say they were told that there were least 193 victims nationwide. It is unclear how many were paralyzed, because the authorities have not released an official figure. Relatives have joined to share information and advocate for the victims. Based on interviews with several families in Beijing and Shanghai, it appears that about half of those injected still cannot walk.

Wu Jianhua said his daughter, Wu Xi, 15, collapsed on her way to school after an injection in August. “We thought she was tired,” Mr. Wu said. Doctors now say she may never walk without a cane, he said.

Last week, on a window near the gate of the closed plant was a notice from the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, dated Sept. 8, accusing the plant of “producing substandard medicine that poses major risks of causing serious harm to human health.” It identified a company official, Gu Yaoming, as the “person responsible” for the plant.

Records show Mr. Gu also met with the United States F.D.A. inspectors last May as part of the routine inspection of the plant that makes RU-486.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Gu declined to describe his role at the two plants. “I cannot answer your questions,” he said.

A spokeswoman for China’s Food and Drug Administration, Yan Jiangying, said that Shanghai Hualian had been stripped of its license to produce antitumor drugs, but that this action did not affect RU-486…

Will the gentleman in charge be executed and the rest of the problems swept under the rug, as usual?

(Thanks to NotSoYoungJim for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, January 31st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Drug Scandal For Chinese Supplier Of RU-486”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


« Front Page | To Top
« | »