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Sunday 27th May 2018

Drug misuse kills thousands

21st May 2007

The improper use of medicines and prescription drugs leads to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 Chinese people a year, experts said.


Chinese doctors and pharmacists attending a conference in the southern province of Guangdong called for greater efforts to educate consumers.

Many of the misused drugs were from traditional Chinese medicine, and were often carelessly used due to a misconception that they had little or no toxicity or side-effects, they said.

Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, manufacturers and exporters are generally keen to self-regulate as fast as possible, to save further deaths and injury from misuse of their medicines and to improve the modern professional standing of a tradition which dates back millennia.

Jin Shiming, an expert serving on the Guangdong Provincial Science and Technological Association committee, said people should not eat drugs 'like they eat food'. Jin warned that no drug was entirely free of side-effects, and that patients should exercise care.

He told a conference on drug safety organised by the Guangdong provincial regulatory body for traditional Chinese medicine that nearly 200,000 people were reported to die every year in China from the improper use of legal drugs, but he gave no source for the figure, which he said purely referred to deaths from drug misuse, and not from the widespread problem of fake medicines.

Jin and other experts described the widespread belief among Chinese laypeople that taking more of a drug would mean a faster recovery.

TCM doctor Mei Quanxi of the Zhongshan Chinese Medicine Hospital cited a case where a man died after consuming a whole ginseng root that his wife bought him. Ginseng is used in the treatment of diabetes and sexual dysfunction.

Mei said ginseng was an inflammatory herb, and too much of it was dangerous, giving rise to a popular Chinese saying that ginseng can kill.

Other deaths were blamed on the consumption of alcohol alongside certain drugs. China's children have also suffered at the hands of drug misuse, with a significant percentage of deaf and mute children owing their conditions to improper drug consumption, experts said.

Cao Wenzhuang, who headed the medicine registration office at the State Food and Drug Administration, was accused recently of taking two million yuan (US$261,000) in bribes from drug companies in exchange for granting approvals.

Fake or bad drugs have killed dozens of people in China in recent years and have raised widespread public fears about drug safety. A Chinese-made medicine ingredient also killed at least 100 people in Panama recently, according to a report in the New York Times.

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