Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Counterfeit drug scandal rocks hospital in Chiayi

PILLS RECALLED Doctors at God's Heart Hospital became aware of problems when patients complained that their blood-pressure medication was not working

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chiayi County's God's Heart Hospital has allegedly been supplying patients with counterfeit versions of the best-selling blood-pressure drug Norvasc.

So far, 1,000 pills have been recalled and sent to labs for analysis.

According to Jong Ming-chang (鐘明昌), head of the Public Health Bureau under the Department of Health (DOH) in Chiayi County, doctors at God's Heart Hospital said they became aware as early as Nov. 3 that there were problems with their latest supply of Norvasc when patients complained that their pills were not working.

Low-profile

However, instead of reporting the situation to the DOH, God's Heart Hospital initiated a low-profile recall hoping to settle the matter quietly, Jong told the Taipei Times.

"God's Heart hospital is guilty of willful neglect," said Jong, "Interrupting a patient's blood-pressure medication could have dire consequences including heart failure and stroke."

Jong said he had publically rebuked the director of God's Heart Hospital, Li Ming-Hsien (李明憲), yesterday for not using an authorized supplier of the drug and for not immediately informing the DOH of the matter.

"I told him that a large hospital should not be buying drugs from disreputable sources," said Jong.

"[Li] replied that the authorized dealers were out of stock of Norvasc, but I don't believe a word of it," he said.

Jong said that those who were found guilty of manufacturing counterfeit drugs could spend up to seven years in jail.

However, when asked to what extent God's Heart Hospital is legally liable for their part in distributing the drugs, Jong said that he had "received no clear answer" on that issue.

"The law does not mandate that medical care providers get their drugs from authorized channels," Jong said.

"To do so would be a violation of the fair trade law," he said.

The DOH yesterday instructed the hospital to closely monitor patients over the next few days for possible adverse reactions and called upon all hospitals and care providers not to buy drugs from obscure sources.

Guidelines

In the wake of the breaking scandal, the DOH has also issued guidelines to help the public figure out if their drugs are authentic.

Possible warning signs of fakes include lot numbers B 514055311 and B 514055361 and a completely smooth rather than textured foil backing to the drug's bubble pack.

However, there is no way to be completely certain of the authenticity through visual inspection alone, and the public is urged to call the Pharmaceutical adverse reaction hotline at 02-2396-0100 if they suspect their supply of Norvasc is counterfeit.

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