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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 15:40 UK

Ginseng jabs kill three in Yunnan

Ginseng root
In East Asia ginseng is believed to have multiple health benefits

Three people have died in south-western China after receiving an injection of Siberian ginseng extract.

The deaths, announced on China's health ministry web site, occurred in Yunnan province after six hospital patients received the injections.

It said sales and use of the ginseng extract had been suspended.

The ministry is also trying to dampen fears about melamine poisoning of milk, which has killed four babies and made thousands ill in a months-long scandal.

It said that 10,666 babies remained in hospital receiving treatment for renal problems caused by the melamine contamination of baby milk formula.

Some parents are taking legal action against the manufacturer at the centre of the scandal, the Sanlu Group, and the state quality supervision body.

Ginseng treatment

The ginseng injection was manufactured by Wandashan Pharmaceutical, based in the north-eastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang.

Siberian ginseng is often used in China to treat heart disease and thrombosis.

The six patients suffered "serious ill effects" including chills, vomiting and sudden drops in blood pressure after receiving the injections at the Number Four People's Hospital in Honghe prefecture on Sunday.

Some went into a coma. Three of the six died on Monday, official media reported two days later.

The State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) says it has isolated two problematic batches of the extract, made from a herb called "ciwujia", and has urged immediate nationwide reporting of any adverse effects.

The Associated Press reports that a man who answered the telephone at Wandashan's marketing department in Heilongjiang, in China's north-east, said the company had stopped selling the herbal injection and had sent the two batches to the SFDA for testing.

The man was reported as saying the company had used ciwujia in its products for more than 30 years without any problem.

Poor regulation

He added that the injectable form of the herb was relatively new, saying: "I haven't heard of any bad reaction [to] this injection before."

China's pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated.

Last year, the country's former top drug regulator was executed for taking millions of dollars in bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic that killed at least 10 people.


SEE ALSO
China sets limit on melamine use
08 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Why China's milk industry went sour
29 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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