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China's top drug regulator receives death sentence

China's former top drug regulator was sentenced to death last week for taking bribes to approve untested medicines, as the country's main quality control agency announced its first recall system targeting unsafe food products.

China's former top drug regulator was sentenced to death last week for taking bribes to approve untested medicines, as the country's main quality control agency announced its first recall system targeting unsafe food products.

The Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court convicted Zheng Xiaoyu for taking bribes in cash and gifts worth more than USD 832,000 when he was director of the State Food and Drug Administration, according to a report in state-run newspaper, China Daily. The court then issued the death penalty, the report revealed.

Zheng, who ran the drug administration from its creation in 1998 until he was fired in 2005, had his powers increased in 2002 when the government required that all drugs be approved by the agency. The change resulted in a massive backlog, giving companies a strong incentive to find ways to expedite approvals.

For example, an antibiotic approved by Zheng's agency killed at least 10 patients in 2006 before it was taken off the market, while medicinal product additives have been responsible for deaths in other countries, such as Panama.

An official from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said that the recall system will be part of a new regulation crafted by the agency and will be implemented in Q4 2007.

Wu Jianping, director general of the administration's food production and supervision department, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that all domestic and foreign food producers and distributors would be obliged to follow the system.

The recall system would be put in place gradually and will focus on potentially dangerous and unapproved food products, according to the report.

The China Daily also stated that the State Food and Drug Administration would blacklist food producers who break the proposed rules. Also, the administration launched a nationwide campaign on 18 June regarding drug-safety inspection, and will be sending a total of 90 officials to 15 provinces over the next two weeks.

27th June 2007

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