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China Suspends Herbal Injection After 3 Deaths

China on Wednesday suspended distribution and medical use of a herbal injection produced by a pharmaceutical firm based in the northeast Heilongjiang Province.

Six patients in the southwestern Yunnan Province reported a strong adverse reaction after taking injections containing extracts of the plant Ciwujia, or Siberian ginseng, produced by the Heilongjiang-based Wandashan Pharmaceutical, according to a notice issued on the websites of the Ministry of Health and State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).

The six, all natives of the Honghe autonomous prefecture, mainly populated by the Hani and Yi ethnic people, began to feel cold or showed symptoms of vomiting, going comatose or dropping blood pressure when they were injected with the drug at about 10 AM on Sunday at the No. 4 People's Hospital, said Li Changwei, the Honghe health bureau vice director.

Three died in the hospital on Monday.

The bureau and the Honghe drug watchdog immediately sent investigators to the hospital after receiving a report.

The provincial food and drug watchdogs of Yunnan and Heilongjiang have ordered a suspension of sales and usage of the medicine.

All hospitals are ordered to pay close attention to possible adverse reactions among patients, according to Li Bin, head of the Heilongjiang health bureau.

On Wednesday, an inspection team sent by the ministry and SFDA arrived at Mishan City in eastern Heilongjiang, where the firm is located. Another team was heading for Yunnan to investigate.

Phone calls to the company remained unanswered on Wednesday night.

Health departments and local drug administrations were informed to follow similar cases. To date, the SFDA had not received any such reports from other parts of China except Yunnan, the notice said.

Siberian ginseng injections are often used to help treat thrombosis caused by a weak liver and kidney. It is also helpful for curing coronary heart disease, neurasthenia and climacteric problems.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2008)

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