The Hospital Authority is negotiating with Europharm on compensation issues after contamination of the drug maker's gout medicine was linked to five deaths. The director of cluster services, Cheung Wai-lun, said the authority would seek compensation from the manufacturer to cover the authority's drug replacement expenses after Purinol was suspended, and any civil claims from affected patients and their families. The authority has suspended supplies of all 42 drug items from Europharm since the March incident. While the contracts of some Europharm products had ended, those for about 30 items remain valid. Dr Cheung said a panel was assessing Europharm's governance and its improvement measures after the blunder to decide if the supplies of these items could be resumed. A series of drug incidents at public hospitals began to unfold in March with a University of Hong Kong inquiry into the deaths of five leukaemia patients at Queen Mary Hospital. Purinol - a form of the drug allopurinol made by Europharm - was found to be contaminated with a high level of fungus. The Health Department later confirmed this, saying the drug was linked to the deaths. On March 11, the department ordered the recall of 216 products from another local firm, Marching Pharmaceutical, after the drugs' expiry dates were found to have been fabricated. Then, on March 16, Christo Pharmaceuticals was found to have supplied 38,000 tablets of unregistered diabetes drugs to public hospitals. Several other incidents followed, prompting the Food and Health Bureau to set up a review committee in April to improve drug safety. It is expected to make recommendations by the end of the year. The committee will discuss a new credit system for drug companies to assess their performance and plans to reform the current good manufacturing practice standards that the 25 local drug makers have achieved. Cheung Tak-hai, chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisation, welcomed the authority's seven new drug safety measures. Sabrina Chan So-kuen, executive director of the Hong Kong Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry, said the group had agreed on the seven initiatives and its 42 members companies would work closely with the authority.