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Herbal drug banned after 3 die
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China has issued an emergency notice banning the use of an injectable herbal drug produced by a Heilongjiang-based pharmaceutical company after three people died.

The fatalities occurred among six people in southwest China's Yunnan Province who became sick after using ciwujia liquid injections made by Wandashan Pharmaceutical Co, the Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration said in a joint notice yesterday.

The drug, made from a plant that grows in northern China, is used to treat blood clots and coronary heart disease.

The six, all natives of the Honghe autonomous prefecture, mainly populated by the Hani and Yi ethnic minorities, began to feel chills, nausea and low blood pressure about 10 am on Sunday at the No. 4 People's Hospital, said Li Changwei, the Honghe health bureau's vice director.

Some became comatose, and three died in the hospital on Monday.

The bureau and the Honghe drug watchdog immediately sent investigators to the hospital after receiving reports of the illnesses.

Drug and health supervisory authorities throughout the country were told to notify all medicine shops and hospitals about the ban and keep a close eye for adverse reactions among people using the injections.

National authorities sent two teams to Yunnan and Heilongjiang provinces yesterday to investigate the situation.

Deaths from contaminated and counterfeit drugs are an ongoing problem in China, pushing the government to take measures to ensure the safety of the nation's medicine supply.

Among the most recent cases, six patients died in May after receiving contaminated immune-system deficiency drugs at Nanchang University No. 2 Hospital in Jiangxi Province.

In November, China's FDA, Supreme Court and top prosecutors office announced a proposal to execute anyone who makes or sells counterfeit drugs that have caused "extreme harm."

Such harm is defined as severe deformities or grievous physical injuries among more than three people or lesser injuries among more than 10 victims.

The proposal, which is sill under consideration, even called for life imprisonment for drug makers and sellers if their medicines caused injuries that were not in the most-severe class.

(Shanghai Daily October 9, 2008)

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