Toxic-drug lab staff only had basic education

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2006, 12:00am

No training given to worker responsible for testing chemicals

A laboratory staff worker responsible for testing a chemical substitution in the manufacture of a gall bladder medicine at a Heilongjiang pharmaceutical factory, which later proved fatal, only had a high-school education, China Central Television reported.

State drug authorities have blamed the deaths of at least nine people this month at a Guangzhou hospital on injections of defective batches of armillarisin A produced by the Qiqihar No2 Pharmaceutical Co.

The company used diglycol rather than propylene glycol to make the doses, after it was supplied with diglycol by an unlicensed dealer in Jiangsu .

Liu Bing, the laboratory worker who approved the substitution in September, told CCTV she had only completed high school and never received training before she started her job.

Ms Liu and co-worker Yu Haiyan also told CCTV they were unaware of an infrared test that would have detected whether the ingredient was genuine. Ms Liu said she only signed the order because the laboratory director told her to.

A Qiqihar factory spokesman told CCTV the operation would probably produce defective drugs in the future if it was sold fake chemicals again, but he also thought the factory's testing system was adequate.

Liu Zhenwen, a deputy section head in charge of drug safety inspection in Qiqihar, said the factory should have more than one person in charge of procurement and quality procedures.

It was normal practice for drug manufacturers to have a cross-checking system to prevent oversight and abuses.

Jiangsu health authorities were also investigating whether two people who died early this month at the People's Hospital in Suqian were given the toxic doses. The hospital told local media that 7,500 doses of the drug from Qiqihar No2 Pharmaceutical had been used at the hospital since January.

Jiangsu health and drug authorities said yesterday they knew little and had 'just sent out an investigation team'. They became aware of the questionable deaths through the media, not local authorities.

Chen Bangtong, director of the Suqian hospital's medical education office, told the Modern Express that the hospital had bought 10,000 doses of armillarisin A from the Heilongjiang manufacturer, and 7,500 were used before the authority issued a ban on the drug on May 13, far more than the 887 doses that were administered to at least 64 people in Guangzhou.

Mr Chen said 158 in-patients and 113 out-patients were given the drug, but some of them were injected with safe doses not from the Qiqihar company.

According to the Modern Express, one of the dead was 27-year-old Wang Xiyong, who received more than 70 doses of fake armillarisin A and died on May 4.

The hospital refused to comment on the matter yesterday.