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China's former medicines regulator sentenced to death

Published on 31/05/07 at 01:22pm

The former head of China's medicines regulator has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of taking bribes to approve substandard medicines.

The draconian measure is intended to show the Chinese government's determination to stamp out corruption among officials and restore confidence in its medicines.

Beijing's No.1 Intermediate People's Court convicted Zheng Xiaoyu of taking cash bribes and gifts worth more than $382,000 during his tenure as director of the State Food and Drug Administration.

The Xinhau state news agency said the bribes had allowed eight companies to circumvent the country's drug approval regulations and, in at least one case, had caused deaths of patients.

One antibiotic approved by Zheng was responsible for at least 10 deaths in 2006 before it was taken off the market.

Zheng held the top job at the watchdog between 1998 and 2005 after rising through the ranks of state-owned pharmaceutical companies. But he was expelled from the ruling Communist Party earlier this year after investigators uncovered bribes.

Zheng also oversaw the safety of foods produced in the country, which have also suffered from adulteration with dangerous chemicals.

Commenting on the state's crackdown, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and security of food.

"We stand ready to work with the international community to safeguard the quality and reputation of the Chinese food industry."

In 2002, the Chinese government ruled that all medicinal products would have to be approved by the SFDA, a rapid change in regulations causing a backlog of approvals.

This, in turn, encouraged corner-cutting among the agency's staff, and bribery from manufacturers eager to speed up approval of their products.

 

 

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