Counterfeit Cough Medicine Traced To Chinese Factory

A Chinese factory was the source of a fake chemical used in medicines that killled at least 100 patients, mainly children, after it was used to make cough medicine, NYT reports in an excellent 7-page investigation.

Through a state-owned company, Taixing Glycerine sold diethylene glycol as pharmaceutical grade glycerine.

Diethylene glycol is used in solvents and as an antitfreeze. When consumed by humans, it results in difficulty breathing, and death.

Amoral manufacturers substitute the cheaper diethylene glycol for the more expensive glycerine, as both are sweet tasting.

The state apathy for oversight is a license to kill…

Last fall, at the request of the United States — Panama has no diplomatic relations with China — the State Food and Drug Administration of China investigated the Taixing Glycerine Factory and Fortune Way.

The agency tested one batch of glycerin from the factory, and found no glycerin, only diethylene glycol and two other substances, a drug official said.

Since then, the Chinese drug administration has concluded that it has no jurisdiction in the case because the factory is not certified to make medicine.

The agency reached a similar conclusion about Fortune Way, saying that as an exporter it was not engaged in the pharmaceutical business.

“We did not find any evidence that either of these companies had broken the law,” said Yan Jiangying, a spokeswoman for the drug administration. “So a criminal investigation was never opened.”

A drug official said the investigation was subsequently handed off to an agency that tests and certifies commercial products — the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

But the agency acted surprised to learn that it was now in charge. “What investigation?” asked Wang Jian, director of its Taixing branch. “I’m not aware of any investigation involving a glycerin factory.”

Besides, Huang Tong, an investigator in that office, said, “We rarely get involved in products that are sold for export.”


From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine [NYT]