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August 13, 2014

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Honeysuckle at center of drugs scandal claims

A PROVINCIAL Party discipline official posted 12 messages in his real-name Weibo account yesterday, alleging that Shao Mingli, formerly chief of the state food and drug administration, amended the Chinese Pharmacopoeia in favor of honeysuckle producers in his hometown, resulting in great economic losses for other growers of the Chinese medicine.

Lu Quan, an official with the Party discipline inspection committee in central China’s Hunan Province, also called for Zhang Yong to step down as China’s food and drug administration director for turning a deaf ear to requests from governments of affected areas.

Lu said he will disclose evidence the state food and drug administration favored special interest groups, harming ordinary growers.

Lu said Jiujianpeng in east China’s Shandong Province and other companies had spent huge sums of money to ensure officials listed honeysuckle planted in southern China as lonicera Confusa when amending the Chinese Pharmacopoeia in 2005. Rumors were also started that honeysuckle planted in southern China could cause inflammation.

Thousands of the honeysuckle planters in southern China lost their livelihoods as a result, he claimed.

The Chinese Pharmacopoeia, compiled by the Pharmacopoeia Commission and amended every five years, is an official compendium of drugs, covering traditional Chinese and Western medicines, and giving information on standards for each drug.

Shao was director of the commission at the time and the “chief culprit,” Lu said.

Lu said Shi Shangmei, head of the commission’s traditional Chinese medicine division, was a “major accomplice.”

“The Pharmacopoeia Commission, then under the control of Shao, changed the name of the plants, called honeysuckle for thousands of years, into lonicera Confusa around 2005 and treated ‘honeysuckle’ as a special name for flowers planted in Shandong Province, where Shao comes from,” Lu said on Weibo.

He said prices of high-quality honeysuckle from southern China dropped sharply after the change, while dealers from the north seized the chance to buy cheap plants from the south and sell them as northern honeysuckle at high prices.

After honeysuckle planters in the south began to suffer economic losses, the regional governments of Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Chongqing approached the administration, calling for restoration of the definition for honeysuckle, but there was no response, Lu said.

Though Lu admitted he had no evidence to show that Shao had profited from the amendment of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, he still believed Shao was responsible for the problem as Shao, from Shandong, was the head of the commission.

Lu said his purpose was to get southern honeysuckle back to where it belonged in the Pharmacopoeia.

Last night, the Pharmacopoeia Commission released a statement saying that the Chinese Pharmacopoeia began recording honeysuckle as the dry flower bud of honeysuckle in 1963.

It listed southern honeysuckle as a variety called lonicera Confusa in 1977.

Because of differences that included characteristics and its chemical composition, the commission decided to list honeysuckle and lonicera Confusa separately in the Pharmacopoeia in 2005, the statement said.

Honeysuckle is regarded as the dry flower bud of honeysuckle, while there are four kinds of lonicera Confusa, it said.

Shao succeeded Zheng Xiaoyu, who served as the director of China’s state food and drug administration from June 1997 to December 2006.

Zheng was sentenced to death for bribery and dereliction of duty in May 2007 and was executed on July 10 that year.  Also in 2007, Zheng’s two secretaries, Hao Heping and Cao Wenzhuang, were sentenced to five years and death with reprieve, respectively, for taking bribes.


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