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Compensation plan for drug side effect victims

SHANGHAI deputies at this year's parliamentary session in Beijing have suggested setting up a national compensation fund for victims of drugs that cause serious side effects.

The proposal by the lawmakers who included Zhou Hongling, chief designer of Shanghai-based No.801 aeronautics institution and Jia Weiping, vice president of Shanghai No.6 People's Hospital and chief of the Shanghai diabetes institution, wants to set up an integrated compensation system to cover victims of serious side effects.

China is reported to have an estimated 2.5 million patients a year seeking hospital treatment because of adverse medical reactions and nearly 200,000 of them die, according to the Shanghai Evening Post.

Zhou said in the proposal patients were often vulnerable but a major drug side effects scandal that involved many victims could cause a huge social disruption.

Patients often spent lots of money, time and energy dealing with pharmaceutical companies or hospitals or filing lawsuits against them, especially when drug itself had passed tests and the side effects were due to individual differences.

If they were never indemnified, they suffered mentally and physically, Zhou said.

Zhou suggested amending the current drug administrative law to stipulate that victims be compensated by the fund and that pharmaceutical companies needed to contribute to the fund.

The fund should be part of the drug liability insurance scheme, according to Zhou.

Pharmaceutical companies would have to buy the insurance the same way that drivers buy compulsory vehicle insurance, Zhou said.

Other sources for the fund would be the drug risk reserves of pharmaceutical companies or drug importers. Public funds from government budgets, donations, as well as from fines for fake drugs or illegal drug practices could also be used.

China's Health Ministry and drug watchdog last month ordered medical institutions and pharmacies around the country to stop using or selling an herbal injection that was linked to deaths.

The shuanghuanglian injection produced by the Jiamusi branch of Wusuli River Pharmacy in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province caused serious side effects and death in some cases.

State authorities received a report from Qinghai Province on February 11 that three patients in Datong County experienced serious side effects after receiving injections.

There have been several similar scandals in China in recent years.

The FDA stopped production of a ciwujia herbal injection in November, which is believed to have killed three people.

Employees of Heilongjiang Wandashan Pharmaceutical Co responsible for the fatal injection were banned from the pharmaceutical business for 10 years.

Six patients in southwestern China's Yunnan Province experienced adverse reactions after having ciwujia injections. Some patients vomited or lapsed into comas and three died.

A fake drug dealer, Wang Guiping, was sentenced to life in prison in September.

Wang was responsible for 14 deaths in a Guangzhou hospital from April 2006 after injections had been prepared with fake ingredients.

Wang bought one ton of the drug diglycol, which can cause kidney failure, and pretended it was a legitimate medical ingredient when he sold it to Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co Ltd in September 2005.

The company used the diglycol to make the drug Armillarisni A in March 2006. That batch of drugs was sold to Guangdong Province where 64 patients received the injections and 14 died.

Victims of the fake drug scandal were awarded 3.51 million yuan (US$513,500) in compensation in June last year by a district court in Guangzhou, which said both Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co Ltd and the No. 3 Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also had responsibility.

In July 2006, Xinfu antibiotic injections, manufactured by Anhui Huayuan Worldbest Biology Pharmacy Company, were blamed for the deaths of at least 10 patients and severe reactions in more than 80 others around the country.

These scandals and other food and drug safety problems have prompted the government to launch a crackdown on fake drugs and tighten rules on food and drug management.


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