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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ARPRINCE says:

    The NYT article is a good read. That happening today is really scary stuff. I hope those counterfeiters get what they deserve!!!

  2. Wormfather says:

    See people!? Communisim Works!

  3. karmaghost says:

    China has been providing a lot of shady shit lately.

  4. fleef says:

    Hmm.. ok so now China is the new “Axis of Evil”… I blame Wal-Mart.

  5. esqdork says:

    Instead of tariffs against textiles, I think we should lock up our borders against Chinese goods unless the manufacturer can demonstrate that their goods are safe. Sadly, the FDA and USDA are woefully understaffed.

  6. Antediluvian says:

    I’d expect to see a whole lot of cleaning up going on in China to keep these stories out of the news in anticipation of the Olympics in 2008, but so far, nothing. Huh. Maybe they’re hoping everyone will forget by next summer?

  7. iMike says:


    I blame the American consumer, who demands more, cheaper stuff without much regard to quality.

  8. mopar_man says:

    So how about we just kill off all imports from China. It would rid the US of Wal-Mart and all sorts of animal and children deaths as well as improve the economy by actually making stuff in the country. I see a win/win situation.

  9. @iMike: I don’t recall ever demanding poison disguised as medicine or crappy products in general.

  10. gwong says:

    @Antediluvian: Or maybe it will be so commonplace by then that people will just shrug and say “Oh, China! You rascals!”

  11. GlobalVillageIdiots says:

    Beware the monster called profit, in China this monster has no master or “rules of engagement”. This is only the beginning of the horror China has created for itself, as their populous climbs out of third world status on the backs of their unsuspecting customers. Did anyone else notice or note the moment when we stopped referring to them as Communist China?

  12. esqdork says:

    This is a great example of why we need government regulation of businesses. It’s also the direction the GOP wants to takes us; no government regulation of businesses and severe regulations of individual rights. Let’s not forget that the putz the White House has nominated to head consumer protection wanted to raise what are acceptable levels of arsenic in our water supply.

  13. wesrubix says:

    iMike is right.

    If you want quality, you pay for quality.

    I place even more blame on companies that have the audacity (read: idiocy) to import from a lower grade economy and not bother to TEST the material!

    Corporate responsibility is disappearing in an effort to cut costs, because yeah, cutting costs is how you make money in the long run. Uh huuuuh…

  14. kerry says:

    @iMike: Bingo! If people weren’t looking to China for cheap goods in the first place, they wouldn’t be selling us cheap, deadly shit. We’ve encouraged an environment where cost is king, and if it’s cheaper to produce we’ll buy it, even if some of that money was saved by cutting out quality and safety control.

  15. Skeptic says:

    So how about we just kill off all imports from China. It would rid the US of Wal-Mart and all sorts of animal and children deaths as well as improve the economy by actually making stuff in the country. I see a win/win situation.

    It would be great if the US could return to being an exporter rather than an importer of manufactured goods but your suggestion has a number of serious problems. The biggest is that China owns more US debt than another country. The US is in hock up to its eyeballs and China can call in its markers whenever it wants. Well, that and the whole US economy coming to crashing halt when the majority of the goods we buy are no longer available and those that are cost 10x as much.

    It is clear we are way too dependent on cheap stuff from China, but the situation is not a simple one to rectify.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    @wesrubix: nice to blame the consumers for their getting ripped off. Classy.

    To retort: I don’t recall buyers of high end formulations of pet food asking, “Please Kill Fluffy! In front of the kids if possible. Please?!”

  17. Triteon says:

    Stories like this beg the question: How far are we willing to go with prescription drug importing, when price is the primary concern?
    And count another who agrees with iMike on this.

  18. rbcat says:

    China does not own the majority of our debt, Japan does, though the gap between the two has been falling in recent years. Both of these are quite a distance away from #3 on the list, the United Kingdom. However, the amount owned by private entities in the US is roughly equal to the foreign ownership, and the amount the US Government itself owns far outstrips the total amount owned by any or all foreign governments.

  19. coelacanth says:

    To me the problem is that while a small number of persons and companies are profiting from importing cheap “wheat gluten”/”soy sauce”/”glycerin” from China, the rest of us are paying a HUGE hidden cost in dead cats/failed livers/army of FDA inspectors/insurance & lawyer fees. These are things we’re all going to be stuck paying for, because SOME of our stuff comes from suspect sources.

  20. Techguy1138 says:

    I don’t know why people keep calling it “cheap stuff.” It’s NOT cheap anymore. It isn’t as if you can simply pay more and buy a US or European made alternative.

    China now makes all the goods. If you want a $700 hdtv or a $3000 one odds are they are both from China.

    China now makes everything and it is difficult to find things not made in China at any price point below artisan made.

  21. matdevdug says:

    What is interesting to me is that China has such a horrible track-record with medicine in the international world, and yet they still control so much of their production. It is estimated that the vast majority of the vitamins consumed in the world today are produced in China, a country in which vitamans are completely unregulated. Yet we still allow them into the country.

    Personally I am tired of hearing the economic theory that we can’t do anything because this is free market economics. For generations it was understood that a nation should protect their own domestic market from dumping by another nation. Only it seems lately has this rule been changed because it benefits the super rich and their international investments.

    I want to buy things produced in nations that don’t use slave labor. I am not particularly radical and majored in economics in college. I wish that consumers would demand that their products were made in nations that had some sense of quality. Forget the foreign debt for a moment, who cares if China suffers? I think we need to realize that we are the market for China, we provide the capital to continue their growth. Cut them off and we can demand whatever we want.

  22. TechnoDestructo says:


    I’m fine with a chinese TV. If you buy cheap chinese electronics, the worst that’s likely to happen is it just shits itself, the worst that CAN happen is a fire.

    Chinese food is starting to look worrisome.

    If you want to see China clean up their act, start holding american food manufacturers and distributors criminally liable for tainted chinese ingredients. They’ll start making sure they’re getting what they hope they’re getting.

  23. Terminixsux says:

    Ancient Chinese Secret!!!!

  24. nuton2wheels says:

    I agree. The government needs to increase regulations with regard to foreign products intended for human consumption. The present lack of restrictions enables unscrupulous companies to peddle inferior goods that are only beneficial to their pocketbooks while taking advantage of consumers who unknowingly procure them. We shouldn’t have to worry about the legitimacy of products we obtain from merchants in a developed core nation like America. There are (supposedly) bureaucracies in place like the FDA and USDA who are there to protect by implementing necessary standards of health and responsibility.

  25. pearlandopal says:


    I was working on a report for my employer the other day and my source materials were quite specific about the fact that morals and ethics are quite different from ours. There was a quote from someone in one of our China offices about how she had to learn that ‘they don’t think the way we do.’ (Not an exact quote, but you get the gist.)

    So that’s their excuse. All these American companies who are raking in the profits can just point to China and say “it’s not our fault! Their ethics are different! You’re just discriminating by expecting them to produce things to our standards!”

  26. Keter says:

    This is more than just a consumer issue, it is also a political and strategic issue.

    Last I checked, China, regardless of official political status or trade status, is still our enemy. They’d take us over in a heartbeat, and they’re in the process of doing exactly that by buying up or destroying our industrial capacity, our commercial property, and our debt.

    Who in their right mind would knowingly buy food and drugs from an enemy with both an abysmal reputation for protecting the health and safety of their own people as well as a visible agenda for conquest?

    Blame the companies HERE for not disclosing the origins of their products. I personally would preferentially buy, regardless of cost, products that gave full disclosure of the origins of the ingredients, such as “Rice – grown and packaged in Texas,” or “olive oil – grown and processed in Spain, bottled in Italy.”

    Having been made seriously ill by undisclosed chemicals in foods years ago, and more recently having had dogs sickened by contaminated pet food, I no longer trust anything I don’t make myself.

    As it is, I am no longer buying ANYTHING that doesn’t come in a recognizable chunk, like a whole vegetable, nut, grain, or cut of meat/seafood item. That means I’m not buying any processed foods AT ALL any more. I would dearly love to know where my rice, oatmeal, bell peppers, etc. came from.

    It’s a huge inconvenience to have to cook everything from scratch, but sickness and death are even more inconvenient, as are the long-term consequences of playing into the hands of our enemies.

  27. shdwsclan says:

    Is there a thing the chinese cannot counterfeight

  28. dextrone says:

    @shdwsclan: Ummm; they didn’t counterfeit pet food and pork…..

    Oh wait , people are telling me they aren’t safe, and those people are NOT idiots……although the FDA holds a solid argument……I mean a completely harmful chemical only has a 1 in 1.0000000000 {that’s a decimal} in damaging your health…..