Health authorities were criticised by patients' groups and medical experts yesterday for failing to recall all products from a local pharmaceutical company involved in a drug contamination scare. The Department of Health announced on Friday that Purinol, a form of the generic drug allopurinol made by Tai Po-based Europharm, was linked to a rare fungal infection, mucormycosis, that has killed at least five patients at Queen Mary Hospital. The Department of Health and the Hospital Authority yesterday decided not to recall all Europharm drugs - including the diabetic drug metformin being used by 200,000 patients - due to inconclusive evidence about their safety. Fifteen million metformin tablets produced by Europharm are used in Hong Kong public hospitals each month. The authority only provides a replacement programme for high-risk patients using allopurinol. Europharm said last night it would temporarily suspend production and sales of all kinds of drugs until further notice to remove public doubt. More than 1,000 drug samples were collected from its Tai Po factory for testing. Results will be available before Friday. Director of Health Lam Ping-yan said yesterday that it would have been an easy but irresponsible decision for him to recall all Europharm-made drugs. Government testing found four batches of allopurinol manufactured from April to November last year were contaminated by a fungus called Rhizopus microsporus - at levels 10 times over that permitted. 'The concerned granules were found to have been stored at 25 degrees Celsius for five to 14 days before they were turned into tablets. During storage in such a non-fully-sterilised environment for such a long period, mould can grow,' Dr Lam said. Medical sector legislator Leung Ka-lau said authorities should launch a total recall. 'They should not put patients at risk,' Dr Leung said. Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said the authority should make public the list of all 41 other Europharm products. University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said the authorities' reluctance to recall all 41 products had created confusion and fear among patients. A government source said: 'The most important message is that patients using the diabetic drugs should not stop the medication or their condition will get worse.' The source said the government had already stocked up on some substitutes for metformin in case the drug tested positive for the fungus.