18 facing charges over fake eye drug injections

Eighteen people are expected to be prosecuted after a fake drug caused eye infections in 61 patients at Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital.

The suspects will face charges of producing or selling fake drugs.

The president and a vice president of the hospital have received an administrative penalty, meaning the matter will be noted on their career records.

Two doctors who failed to follow regulations and who used the fake drug will be suspended from medical practice for six months, the Shanghai Information Office said.

The drug the patients used was not real Avastin, a cancer drug made by global pharmaceutical giant Roche that is also used to treat macular degeneration, an eye condition.

It was confirmed as fake after the drug was tested by Roche and the city’s drug accreditation institute.

The batch of fake Avastin was sold to the Shanghai Ruijin-AmMed Cancer Center, which illegally purchased the drug, and later ended up in the Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital’s eye department. The information office didn’t disclose yesterday how the fake drug had been acquired by the hospital.

The cancer center, which was jointly established by Ruijin Hospital and Hong Kong AmMed International Co, has its drug sales license revoked and all illegal drugs found have been confiscated. Officials will confiscate all the center’s illegal profit and impose a fine five times the figure.

Cancer center employees involved in the fake Avastin case were among those caught by police. Officials from Shanghai Health Bureau said the employees included some Hong Kong residents, but detailed information was not available.

The president of Ruijin Hospital and two officials who were on the center’s board were also given administrative penalties or warnings.

Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital lost six points for its part in the  scandal. A hospital faces serious penalties, such as suspension of operations and even losing its medical facility license, if it loses over 12 points in a year.

The authority also issued a warning to Ruijin Hospital, which should have been managing the performance of AmMed.

All 61 patients who suffered side effects after being injected with the fake drug have been discharged. The hospital was ordered to provide them with follow-up care and treatment.

The 61 were among 116 people who received the fake medicine on September 6 and 8. After the injections, they reported eye inflammations and poor vision and were admitted to hospital. Seventeen patients required surgery.