06/11/2007, 00.00
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Fake blood product used in public hospitals in Jilin

Hospitals use bottled drug containing polysorbate 80, a substance that can cause immunological reactions and death. Hospital authorities are faulted for accepting non-certified drugs or sloppily forged documents. Investigations continue but police remains tight-lipped.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 2,000 bottles of fake human albumin have been confiscated in 18 big hospitals in China’s Jilin Province, China Central Television reported yesterday. It is not however known whether any hospital staff is under investigation.

The Jilin Food and Drug Administration found that the bottles contained a dissolving agent, polysorbate 80, instead of 96 per cent or more concentrated human albumin. Not only did the fake drug have no medical value, but it can cause severe immunological reactions. Since it is administered by injection, allergic patients can even die. It can also harm the liver which produces the albumin.

The human serum albumin normally constitutes about 60 per cent of human plasma protein and is essential in regulating blood volume by maintaining the osmotic pressure of the blood compartment, i.e. the right vascular and tissue distribution of the body’s liquids.

Produced at a cost 10-15 yuan per unit, the counterfeit drug was sold to patients for 300 yuan.

Many hospitals failed to ask for the fake drugs’ certification. Sloppily forged approval papers were even found in one hospital in Shulan City. One batch of drugs it received was identified as coming from West Germany, a country that ceased to exist in 1990.

China has been fighting counterfeit drugs for a long time. In 2005 the mainland's top drug administrator, Zheng Xiaoyu, was removed from office for taking a 5 million yuan bribe (US$ 650,000) in order to approve hundreds of fake drugs.

Last month he was sentenced to death, an unusual move for a high ranking Communist Party official, but one that reflects the authorities’ determination to deal with a situation that seems to be getting worse.

In recent months several scandals have involved fake food and drugs made in the mainland causing many deaths both in China and abroad.

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