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Dereliction of duty eyed in capsule scandal

By Li Qian  (Shanghai Daily)

10:13, April 26, 2012

AUTHORITIES have begun an investigation into possible dereliction of duty among law-enforcement and safety supervisors amid a scandal involving contaminated medicine capsules.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate has sent investigators to northern China's Hebei Province and eastern China's Zhejiang Province, where they will join local investigators to find out if government employees ignored their responsibilities and allowed the contamination to occur, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

The SPP asked local procurators to uncover any dereliction of duty in relation to the incident, in which industrial gelatin containing high amounts of chromium, a known carcinogen, was used to produce drug capsules, Xinhua said.

The Ministry of Public Security said Sunday that it has confiscated 77 million capsules made from industrial gelatin, arrested nine suspects, detained 54 others and shut down eight capsule-manufacturing factories in Hebei, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces.

Meanwhile, a man who triggered wide controversy when he said "it's safe and fine to take six chromium-laced drug capsules a day" while posing as a Ministry of Health expert admitted he was just a doctor.

Sun Zhongshi, 70-plus, said he only wanted to mitigate widespread panic over the drug capsules. But people said he was endorsing the blacklisted pharmaceutical companies that used the tainted capsules.

The ministry soon pointed out that Sun wasn't an official with the ministry. Sun said later that he was a consultant with a website affiliated with the China Hospital Association, a non-government organization, Nanfang Daily reported.

Sun made the comments on April 19. "Six capsules a day is just a little sum. Don't take it too seriously and exaggerate its hazards," he said.

Despite the online personal attacks he endured, he insisted he was right and that he had never spoken for any one of the nine involved pharmaceutical companies, the paper reported.

"I have been a doctor for 50 years. I just want to relieve people's worries," Sun said. "You can show your disagreements, but please don't abuse me with malicious words."

Many people started avoiding all drug capsules after the industrial gelatin was exposed to be used by well-known pharmaceutical companies. The tainted capsules contained excess chromium, a heavy metal that can cause kidney and liver damage and lead to cancer.

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