Fake medicine caused eye infections at hospital

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 September, 2010, 12:00am

Fake medicine is to blame for the eye infections that 61 patients developed after treatment at one of Shanghai's main hospitals three weeks ago, the city's food and drug administration has ruled.

A criminal investigation was launched after laboratory tests found that the medicines used did not match their labelling, the authority said in a brief statement posted online yesterday.

The 61 patients who needed to be readmitted to Shanghai First People's Hospital were among 116 who underwent similar procedures on September 6 and 8.

The patients thought they were receiving injections of Avastin, a US-made cancer drug that is widely used to treat eye conditions. However, mainland authorities have not approved the use of Avastin for that purpose.

The hospital was forced to re-examine the patients after several developed eye infections of varying degrees. Seventeen patients needed emergency pinhole surgery to treat the inflammation.

The Shanghai FDA said although the drugs were labelled 'Avastin' and bore the manufacturer's logo and batch number 'B6001B60', an analysis found them to be fake.

Avastin is the trade name for bevacizumab, originally developed to combat the spread of various cancers, but is widely used in several countries and Hong Kong to treat a number of eye conditions.

Roche, the parent firm of drug manufacturer Genentech, had earlier distanced itself from the incident, saying it did not supply Avastin to any mainland medical institutions.

Albert Chao, the company's Shanghai-based Asia representative, said yesterday that he welcomed the findings.

'We strongly condemn such actions as counterfeiting drugs,' Chao said.

The company was not willing to comment further as the case had been passed to the prosecutors' office, he said.

'We are very appreciative of the Shanghai government's actions to find out the truth of the case,' Chao said.

Avastin has been approved by mainland authorities for only one use - treating colon cancer.

At the time of the incidents, it had not been officially launched on the mainland.

Chao said then that there was 'no official supply of Avastin in any hospital or pharmacist in China'.