BY LAURIE BURKITT
BEIJING-China’s drug regulator suspended the sale of 13 drugs using capsules allegedly made with excessive chromium levels, highlighting China’s continued battle with food and drug safety.
Analysts say the move also underlines increasing price pressures on China’s drug manufacturers amid a government health-care overhaul. The State Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Sunday it asked local authorities in China to inspect drug-capsule manufacturers in their provinces.
The statement named the 13 drugs under suspension, including 11 Chinese traditional herbal remedies and two antibiotics. All were made by Chinese pharmaceutical companies that purchased the capsules from small manufacturers in China’s coastal Zhejiang province. State-run China Central Television network reported Sunday that the drug capsules had been made from industrial gelatin, which contains more of the chemical chromium than edible gelatin. Chromium can be carcinogenic with frequent exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State media reported that the chromium came from scraps of leather from manufacturers-which contain the chemical as part of the tanning process-used as a raw material. The state-run Xinhua news agency said polite detained 22 people who allegedly produced and sold the capsules.
China is a major maker and exporter of drugs, but pharmaceutical analysts say it is unlikely the capsules have gone beyond China’s borders. A spokeswoman said representatives from the China-based office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were unavailable to comment Monday.
Food and drug safety remain major issues in China, where food scandals-often driven by economie motives-frequently appear in the news. The government often launches campaigns to safeguard consumers by cracking down on harmful chemicals added to food, yet regulatory oversight remains a major problem.