Bad Batch of Antibiotics kills at least 9 in Anhui Province

A bad batch of an injectible antibiotic called Xinfu (clindamycin phosphate glucose) appears to have killed 13 people in China. (SCMP 8/10/2006). Inexplicably, the official government toll is 7 in the provinces Hunan, Sichuan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi, and Hubei provinces. (Xinhua 8/10). There have also been severe adverse reactions in more than 80 patients. (Xinhua 8/9). Of course, the government has denied any cover-up. The company responsible for the bad antibiotic, Anhui Huayuan Worldbest Biology Pharmacy Co, has been ordered by the State Food and Drug Administration to recall all of the products, but millions of units are outstanding.

The government’s handling of this matter raises questions about how truthful and open about the extent of such emergencies and its own handling of them, similar to the handling of SARS a couple of years back and the cover-up of the Songhua river spill. The extent of such drug safety problems are not new. There have been serious incidents involving fake drugs as well as contaminated foods in the past.

What is particularly interesting, I think, is the parallel to the environmental area. There, the regulatory system has also badly failed the public. Yet, for both, drug safety and pollution control, the central government appears to have made significant statements of concern and sems to take the issue seriously. In fact, officials statements calling for more inspection and enforcement, as well as blaming the problems on “local protectionism” sounds awfully much like the rethoric on environmental matters. (Xinhua 8/9)

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