China shuts down 5 drug makers
By The Associated Press

BEIJING China's food and drug watchdog announced it had shut down five drug makers over the last year, including one that made a substance implicated in 11 deaths, state media reported Saturday.

The State Food and Drug Administration also stripped 128 drug makers of their Good Manufacturing Practice certificates, which are a symbol of favorable performance, the China Daily newspaper reported on its Web site.

The report comes as China faces mounting international criticism over the quality and safety of its products from toys to toothpaste.

Eleven people died this year after taking a drug made by the Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, one of the five companies shut down. An investigation showed the drug contained a chemical that can cause kidney failure.

The China Daily report said Guangdong Baiyi Pharmaceutical's license was revoked for making a blood product from an infected donor, an incident not widely reported.

The other three shuttered drug makers were not named in the report.

The report did say, however, that over the past six months, the administration has focused on boosting the number of inspectors and monitoring the production quality of narcotic drug makers.

Worries about Chinese products began earlier this year, when the deaths of dogs and cats in North America were linked to pet food containing Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine. Since then, U.S. authorities have also banned or turned away Chinese products including toxic fish, and popular toy trains decorated with lead paint.

Several other countries have halted imports of Chinese-made toothpaste because it contained diethylene glycol, a low-cost and sometimes deadly substitute for glycerin.

China is overhauling its chaotic food- and drug-safety mechanisms.