Nine people have died from using fake drug made by a Chinese pharmaceutical company in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, hospital sources said Monday.
The nine people were confirmed to have died from using the fake Armillarisni A injection by the Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., said officials with the Third Hospital affiliated to the Sun Yat-sen University in South China's Guangdong Province.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has ordered government departments to launch a thorough investigation into the fake drug incident and intensify the straightening out of the pharmaceutical market.
The fake drug causes pain at alimentary canal and stomach and brings damage to kidney, nervous system and liver.
Among the victims, five had been confirmed dead over the fake drug by May 16.
The hospital is the only one in Guangdong Province that purchased the drug. It has identified 64 people who used the fake drug.
Liao Xinbo, vice-director of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Health, said nine out of 18 people who used the fake drug before they died were believed to be killed by the drug.
The other nine may have died of diseases and other reasons, Liao said.
Five patients who fell ill over the fake drug are recovering in the hospital, said Cai Daozhang, vice president of the hospital.
Guangdong officials said Sunday that five suspects including a material buyer, general manager, two deputy factory directors in charge of technology and supply and a testing office director from the company have been taken by police to Guangdong Province for further questioning.
According to a briefing by the State Food and Drug Administration last week, the pharmaceutical company purchased one ton of "propylene glycol" from a drug dealer named Wang Guiping in September 2005 as auxiliary material for producing Armillarisni A injection.
The "propylene glycol" delivered by Wang is actually diglycol, an industrial material which causes acute kidney failure if taken by humans. The company's quality inspectors failed to discover the problem.
Using diglycol, the company produced the injection, mainly for treating acute or chronic cholecystitis and chronic and atrophic gastritis.
Drug authorities in Guangdong Province reported on May 3 that patients using the injection had developed acute kidney failure symptoms, which prompted immediate investigations into the case.
The government has shut down the plant and banned the sale of all its medicines. Efforts have also been made to track down and seal up relevant drugs sold to various regions.
China has launched an overhaul of pharmaceutical plants nationwide after the fake drug caused deaths.