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September 14, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Shanghai firm to solve national heart drug crisis

THE main producer of a drug whose short supply has forced major hospitals in China to stop heart operations since late July yesterday promised to increase production.

Protamine sulfate injection is used to reduce bleeding after heart surgery.

Officials from Shanghai Pharmaceutical (Group) Co, whose Shanghai No. 1 Biochemical & Pharmaceutical Co was until recently the only domestic producer of the drug, said it was aware of the shortage and would be expanding production.

It said it had reduced production early this year due to a shortage of raw materials.

Protamine sulfate is extracted from the sperm of salmon and other species of fish and is used after surgery to help control bleeding.

Doctors said it had been in use since the 1960s and cost just 11.2 yuan (US$1.75) per pack.

There is no alternative product on the market.

The other two plants which used to make the drug stopped production several years ago. One of them, the Beijing Youcare Pharmaceutical Group, restarted production recently.

Hospitals in Shanghai said the shortage of protamine sulfate had not had any effect on heart surgeries so far but couldn't promise that would continue.

Hospitals in other provinces have been seriously affected, however, with some having had to cancel heart surgery.

Xia Lin, an official with the Shanghai Children's Medical Center, the hospital which carries out the largest number of heart operations on children in China, said the hospital made sure it had sufficient stocks of protamine sulfate injection after learning of shortages in other provinces.

Dr Liu Zhongmin, president of Shanghai East Hospital, said it had enough in store to meet demand but there was concern over future shortages.

The State Food and Drug Administration said it was coordinating drug production and would give the green light to other companies applying for a production license.

An SFDA official said the reason for the shortage was complicated, involving raw material supply and pricing and the government would be carrying out research to help solve the problem.

Shanghai FDA officials said the reduction in production by the Shanghai Pharmaceutical Co was mainly because of low supplies of raw materials since salmon only reproduce in April and May.

The Shanghai company said it had brought forward its production schedule and a batch of 90,000 packs of protamine sulfate injection would be on the domestic market later this month. Officials said it may take some time for normal production to resume.

They also said that hospitals storing the drug over concerns of shortages in the future could be worsening the situation.


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