01 February 2008

When things go wrong in the drug trade

Tainted Drugs Linked to Maker of Abortion Pill

For all the crap I've given our FDA, its still doing a better job than the Chinese version. There are two things going on here; the cancer drug that is tainted and the mifepristone (RU-486) made by the same company in a different factory that is exported to the US.

The story started with a number of cancer patients becoming paralyzed, some still can't walk.

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.

Its unclear how many people are suffering from this, the Chinese government isn't known for its transparency. But that doesn't mean the don't take drastic measures when the time comes. Just last summer, the former head of the Chinese FDA was executed after being found guilt of taking bribes. It seems to me that they are trying, in there own way, to clean up their act. But it seems to be for the sake of export more than the safety of the Chinese people. I am, however, very much on the outside of this one, maybe it is about the Chinese people, and I only hear the stories when they have to do with how they might directly effect me.

I say that because the article doesn't start with the back story about the paralysis of cancer patients in Beijing. Rather it mentions the bare bones of the problem and the third paragraph starts in about how the company is the only supplier of mifepristone to the US. The article then tells us that this isn't the first time the company has had a run in with one or the other FDA.

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.

We might see the Chinese crack down on some of the issues we've been seeing in the news; the tainted food, drugs, toothpaste, toys. But I don't think that the results will be for the Chinese people, but rather for the export market. China is very worried about its image right now, more than its worried about doing right by its people.

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