Fake blood-pressure drug investigation expands

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 2

Investigators said yesterday that the counterfeit blood-pressure medication scandal that struck Chiayi's God's Heart Hospital last week could have affected other medical facilities.

The number of God's Heart's patients affected has increased to 229, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

"God's Heart told us they bought 18,000 suspected counterfeit pills and that 14,000 have been been recalled," said Wang Je-chau (王哲超), director of the department's Public Relations Office.

Dai Hsueh-yung (戴雪詠), section chief of the DOH's Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, confirmed that the supplies of Norvasc at three health institutions in Chiayi County and three in Tainan County had been impounded, as the drug came from the same supplier that had serviced God's Heart Hospital.

"At this point we are unable to say categorically whether the drugs are fake, but we do know that they were obtained from Jung-deng pharmaceuticals, the same firm that supplied God's Heart with counterfeit Norvasc," she said.

"Sometimes medical professionals have too much faith in their ability to tell the real thing from fakes," she added.

According to Peng Chiung-hui (彭瓊慧), corporate affairs manager at Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company, there is only one authorized supplier of Norvasc in Taiwan -- Arich Enterprise Co.

"Jung-deng pharmaceuticals only supplied one order of 10 boxes of Norvasc to us through Arich," Peng said.

"People who have older packages of Norvasc are panicking because of the counterfeits," Peng said. "They could be harming themselves unnecessarily by not taking their prescribed blood-pressure medication."

According to the DOH Bureau of Medical Affairs Chief Director Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元), in addition to criminal liabilities, medical institutions purchasing counterfeit drugs could be fined up to US$250,000 if found to be at fault by the DOH. Affected individuals could also sue hospitals and clinics for damages.