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Fake capsule crackdown expanded

By Zhao Qian (Global Times)

08:28, May 02, 2012

China's food and drug safety watchdog has launched a nationwide comprehensive investigation into edible gelatin, capsule and medicine producers and listed another 10 types of capsule drugs that contain excessive levels of chromium.

Starting yesterday, producers of pharmaceutical gelatin, capsules and capsule drugs should strictly examine each batch of raw materials in every category before production, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) said in a statement on its website Friday.

The watchdog listed 10 types of capsule drugs produced by nine pharmaceutical companies on its website and imposed an immediate product recall.

All self-examinations and recalls must be finished before May 31.

The Ministry of Health issued a statement Monday requiring all medical institutions to stop using the capsule drugs on the SFDA's list, and report related data on these medicines to local health and drug supervision departments.

Local drug safety supervision departments have initiated investigations into three enterprises under the Tonghua Pharmaceutical Group, and may transfer their cases to security authorities if they are suspected of committing crimes.

The China Product Quality Association gave the country's capsule industry a CCC rating on Sunday, indicating the lack of credibility and bad reputation in the sector.

A total of 18 edible gelatin producers were investigated after China Central Television reported half a month earlier that commonly prescribed drugs had been packed into capsules made with industrial gelatin, and 13 batches of nine company's products were found to contain excessive chromium.

The SFDA also examined 117 capsule producers nationwide, and 74 batches of products from 15 capsule makers were found to contain excessive amounts of chromium.

"It is an improvement for the SFDA to launch such a comprehensive investigation of the entire production line of the capsule drugs in such a short time," Dong Jinshi, a Beijing-based food safety expert and secretary-general of the International Food Packaging Association, told the Global Times yesterday.

Some Internet users suggested taking the medicine powder by discarding the capsule in order to avoid being poisoned.

"The capsule prevents certain strong medicines from harming the esophagus and stomach, and should not be discarded," Ma Hongsheng, a professor of the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, was quoted by West China City Daily as saying.

Dong said punishments against related enterprises must be very strict after the investigation is completed in order to warn all food and drug companies.

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