The Department of Health pledged yesterday to step up inspections to prevent the illegal use of materials made from cattle bone in dental implant surgery, amid fears that such material may have been imported from regions affected by mad cow disease.
Liu Li-ling (劉麗玲), deputy chief of the department's Bureau of Medical Affairs, said that medical devices made from bovine bone are currently forbidden unless they are sent to the department for inspection in advance and are issued a permit.
As no permits for bovine bone-based medical devices have been issued by the department to date, it is safe to say that any such devices available on the market are illegal, Liu said.
Liu made the remarks in response to a claim by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chu Chun-hsiao (朱俊曉) that approximately 30 percent of dental clinics in the country use bone graft material made of bovine bone from countries that have been affected by mad cow disease, such as the US, a practice which the legislator said exposed patients to an unnecessary risk of being infected with the deadly disease.
In some cases, bone grafting is required in dental implant treatment, and bovine bone is one of the options for a substance in the process that is aimed at regenerating lost bone and tissue to create a better quality bone site for the implantation.
Liu said that anyone caught manufacturing, importing, selling or supplying unlicensed medical devices will be subject to imprisonment of up to three years and a maximum fine of NT$100,000.
Lu said that members of the public can call the department's hot line at 0800-625748 to report any such activity.
Peng Ming-hsing (彭明興), a section chief at the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine's Animal Quarantine Division, said that there is no evidence showing that using the bone material from animals infected with mad cow disease in bone grafting can transmit the disease to the patients.
Nevertheless, the government should still deal with the issue carefully to minimize the possibility of infection, Peng said
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