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Fungus tainted drug stopped

HONG Kong health authorities have ordered a local drug maker to suspend production of its treatment for gout after it was found to be tainted with fungus, officials said yesterday.

The contamination was discovered following an investigation into the deaths of five people from a rare fungal infection, according to a government statement.

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Hospital Authority said health officials were running tests to determine whether the contamination was to blame for the deaths.

All the five victims had been treated with the drug Allopurinol, which was produced by Hong Kong manufacturer Europharm Laboratories. The drug was allegedly contaminated by a fungus known as Rhizopus microsporus.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung was quoted by Hong Kong media as saying that samples showed the drug contained about 10,000 fungus spores, which is 100 times the allowed standard.

Meanwhile, the Health Bureau of Macau yesterday required all local medicine importers and exporters to recall all batches of Allopurinol made by Europharm Laboratories.

The drug is used primarily to treat hyperuricemia, which is an excess of uric acid in blood plasma, known commonly as gout.

Leukaemia patients undergoing chemotherapy also use the drug.

Although the four batches of tainted Allopurinol were not permitted to be imported into Macau, medicine traders in the special administrative region were required to recall all batches of the drug, according to the government statement.


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