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Ex-drug regulator sentenced to death in China


June 3, 2007: The People’s Republic of China slammed a death penalty sentence on the former director of its State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), on charges of corruption, say reports from officially controlled Chinese media.

Zheng Xiaoyu was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from its founding in 1998 until mid-2005, when he was removed from his post. He was detained in February in a government investigation of the agency, which is supposed to be China’s food and drug watchdog. Two other top agency officials have also been detained.

A Beijing court sentences the death penalty for taking over $850,000 (€632,000) worth of bribes in the form of cash and gifts. Incidently, Zheng also received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment for dereliction of duty.

In addition, all Zheng's personal property was confiscated and he was deprived of his political rights for life. His wife and son are also implicated and are still being investigated, among others who are believed to be involved.

The degree of Zheng's corruption is reportedly extensive. According to the court, he "sought benefits" for eight pharmaceutical companies, including the Hainan Kongliyuan Group from South China's Hainan Province, by inappropriately approving hundreds of drugs and medical devices during a three-year period between 2001 and 2003, six of which proved to be fake.

Dozens of people have been killed by fake and inferior products in China during Zheng's tenure, according to media reports.

In one high-profile case in May 2006, nine people died in China after being injected with a concoction of Armillarisni A that contained a fake and toxic ingredient.

In Panama last year, more than 40 people died after taking cough syrup, antihistamine tablets, and calamine lotion which contained glycerine that was contaminated with diethylene glycol (DEG), a poison used in antifreeze and as a solvent. The glycerin was originally sourced from China.

Zheng, however, still has the right to appeal.

The potential for China's pharmaceutical market is vast and has been growing rapidly, however, many pharma firms have long been avoiding doing business in the country because of concerns over corruption and the degree of product quality control and regulation, as well as fears of that their intellectual property (IP) cannot be protected.

The SFDA has just announced it will send 90 officials to carry out drug safety inspections in 15 provinces across the country over the next two weeks.




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