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China ginseng jabs kill three

10th October 2008

Authorities in the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan have recalled two batches of ginseng injection phials after three people died.

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Six patients at the No. 4 People's Hospital in Honghe Autonomous Prefecture suffered strong adverse reactions, including vomiting and becoming comatose, after being injected with ciwujia from the two batches, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Three died in hospital on Monday. The others were in a stable condition but were still under observation, the agency said.

Ministry of health experts ran tests on 180 samples of "Cuwujia Injection" herbal remedies, extracted from a variety of Siberian ginseng, which is often used to treat thrombosis caused by weak liver and kidneys. It is also believed to be helpful in treating coronary heart disease, nervous exhaustion and menopausal problems in traditional Chinese medicine.

They found no toxins, such as rat poison, pesticide or herbicide. Further investigations are now under way into the cause of the three deaths.

A spokesperson for the public security bureau, or police, in the Honghe Autonomous prefecture, home to China's Hani and Yi ethnic groups, said there was no indication of intentional poisoning of the injection fluid.

Manufactured by Wandashan Pharmaceutical in December, in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, the two batches were ordered recalled after the deaths of three people who had received the injections.

Guo Laibin, a Heilongjiang Land Reclamation Region official in charge of economic development said the recall had begun Tuesday morning, and applied to all unused products still held by clinics and hospitals.

All of the medicine had now been accounted for, and was on its way back to the manufacturer, Guo said, without giving exact details of the number of doses.

Hospital officials in Honghe said they had experienced no previous problems with the ciwujia injections.

Hospital president Liu Ru said doctors had been using them for a long time, with problems only emerging with doses from two specific batches Sunday.

A total of 19 people used injections from the problem batches, six of whom had adverse reactions.

Local food and drug administration official Xue Yun said a total of 13 hospitals in the prefecture used the two batches of injections and only the No. 4 People's Hospital had reported adverse reaction cases.

A total of 180 bottles from the No. 4 People's Hospital had now been sent to the authorities for examination, Xue said.

The safety scare, coming as it does amid a nationwide scandal over contaminated milk products which has given tens of thousands of Chinese infants kidney stones, prompted a response from food safety officials right up to municipal and provincial level.

They arrived at the Heilongjiang-based Wandashan Pharmaceutical plant to investigate the medicine on Tuesday, and the company was cooperating fully with the investigation. No results had yet been made available. The product has been manufactured at the plant for 30 years. No previous problems have been reported.

Meanwhile, all sales and prescription of the medicine have been banned in Yunnan and Heilongjiang, and hospitals had been ordered to monitor patients closely for further adverse reactions, Heilongjiang health bureau chief Li Bin said.

The adverse reactions appear so far to be limited to Yunnan province.

 

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