Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 15:59 UK

US row over China-made blood drug

By Neil Bowdler
BBC News

Professor Jin Shaohong
Professor Jin Shaohong was adamant that the problem is not with China

Chinese officials have rejected claims by US authorities that Chinese imports are to blame for deaths among users of the blood-thinning drug heparin.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says a contaminant sourced to a Chinese factory has been found in heparin supplies in 11 countries.

The FDA is linking the contaminant to severe allergic reactions, and deaths, among users of the drug in the US.

China says no other countries have had a problem with the drug.

Heparin is derived from the mucous membranes of pig intestines.

The drug is used in kidney dialysis and during some types of surgery to prevent blood clots.

'Disreputable sellers'

First there was the contaminated toothpaste and fish and lead paint in toys.

A pig bred for heparin in China, file image
Chinese pigs are at the centre of the dispute

Now there comes the claim that China is to blame for a contaminant in heparin which it holds responsible for up as many as 81 deaths.

It has accused a Chinese factory of using unclean tanks to make heparin ingredients, and of buying raw materials from disreputable sellers.

And it says there is a solid link between the contaminant and severe allergic reactions in heparin users that have been associated with deaths in the US.

China rebuff

But at a press conference convened at the Chinese embassy in Washington, Professor Jin Shoahong of China's pharmaceuticals standards agency was quick to dispute the claims.

He said there was no evidence that the contaminant - a chemical called oversulphated chondroitin sulphate - was to blame for the deaths.

He pointed out that the chemical had been found in heparin stocks in other countries - but that no deaths had been reported outside of the US.

"In addition to the USA and Germany, more than 10 other countries also use the heparin ingredient that contained oversulphated chondroitin sulphate to produce final heparin injection," he said.

"But there are no reports of problems from these countries."

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