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Macao recalls all HK tainted Allopurinol pills
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10:49, March 08, 2009

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The Health Bureau (SSM) of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Saturday announced it requires all local medicine importers and exporters to recall all batches of Allopurinol made by Hong Kong drug maker, Europharm Laboratories, after five patients in Hong Kong died after taking the bacteria-tainted drugs.

Hong Kong SAR's Department of Health has urged patients not to take Allopurinol produced by Europharm Laboratories due to its "suspected fungal contamination which may cause mucormycosis infection", according to a press statement released Friday by the department.

The drug is used primarily to treat hyperuricemia, which is an excess of uric acid in blood plasma, known commonly as gout. Leukaemia patients undergoing chemotherapy also use the drug often.

Although the four batches of tainted Allopurinol were not permitted to be imported into Macao, but, for safety reasons, medicine importers and exporters in Macao were required to recall all batches of the drugs, according to the announcement from the SSM.

The SSM also called upon all pharmacies, medical institutions and private clinics not to provide the above-mentioned drugs to the patients while residents should stop taking them and look for replacement by consulting their doctors.

The HK health authorities have found a level of the bacteria mucormycosis 100 times the standard allowed in the Europharm-produced Allopurinol, which some 40,000 HK patients have been given and some of them have low immunity due to leukemia, according to a report by a Hong Kong English daily, South China Morning Post, which quoted an estimate from HK's Hospital Authority.

The tainted-pill was exposed after five of the six patients who were infected by the fungal bacteria at HK's Queen Mary Hospital died in recent months. Tests subsequently found that they were suffering from intestinal mucormycosis, and the disease is caused by spores from a group of fungi called murorales, according to the HK daily.

Europharm, which sells 41 types of drugs, has been making Allopurinol for 21 years. The contamination might have been caused by the manufacturer's poor quality management in the production process, the daily quoted William Chui Chun-ming, education director of Hospital Pharmacists of HK, as saying.

The SSM said in the announcement that it will sample and lab-test other Europharm-produced drugs that were being sold in Macao and will release the results of the tests to the public.


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