Chinese Drug Official Gets Death Sentence | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: May 30, 2007

Chinese Drug Official Gets Death Sentence

Former regulator is found guilty of taking bribes to allow drugs on the market
Department: Government & Policy

The former head of China's State Food & Drug Administration (SFDA), Zheng Xiaoyu, has been sentenced to death by a court in Beijing for accepting bribes from 1998 to 2005.

The court ruled that Zheng, 63, was guilty of having accepted $850,000 from eight Chinese drug companies and medical device manufacturers in return for approving their products for launch in China. Death sentences are often carried out immediately in China, but Zheng's was not. Many speculate that his sentence will be commuted to imprisonment.

SFDA, China's equivalent of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, was formed in 1998 through the merger of state drug and food agencies; Zheng was its first director. He left his post in June 2005 and was arrested in December, according to Xinhua, the Chinese government news agency. Two of his former assistants at SFDA were also apprehended around the same time.

Following several scandals in recent months, pressure is mounting on China to improve regulatory oversight of its food and drug industries. According to a statement released last month by FDA, at least 40 people died in Panama in September 2006 after ingesting cough syrup containing Chinese-made diethylene glycol that was mislabeled as glycerin, a more expensive product.

A U.S. executive who runs a small R&D center and pharmaceutical ingredients facility near Shanghai tells C&EN that there are serious loopholes in the Chinese system for inspecting pharmaceutical manufacturers. Requesting anonymity because he doesn't want to antagonize Chinese regulators, he says the system won't become effective without profound reform.

At present, the executive says, SFDA managers in Beijing approve drugs for launch in China on the basis of plant inspection data provided by officials employed by the cities and provinces where the plants operate. He adds that manufacturers are usually alerted of an inspection ahead of time, months in advance in some cases.

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