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Thailand to probe painkiller import from China
Publication Date : 26-02-2013
Thailand's Public Health Ministry has launched an inquiry with the state drug maker after the Defence Pharmaceutical Factory found that the raw material to be used in producing paracetamol is of poor quality.
Paracetamol is an over-the-counter pain relieving drug.
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) will hold a press conference tomorrow to explain to the public its procedures in producing paracetamol and storing the raw materials which are purchased from China.
Public Health Minister Pradith Sinthawanarong said he had instructed GPO managing director Witit Artavatkun to clarify doubts surrounding the raw materials.
"If the GPO's managing director cannot give a clear answer on this issue, I will set up a committee to investigate what really happened with the raw material," Pradith said.
The GPO purchased more than 130 tonnes of the raw material used in paracetamol production - or about 19 batches - during 2011-2012.
However, so far it has been unable to produce the paracetamol because work on its new factory is not finished and it was not expected to be ready until the end of March.
In the meantime, it hired the Defence Industry and Energy Centre's pharmaceutical factory to produce paracetamol and a private storage to keep the raw materials.
Meanwhile, the Defence Pharmaceutical Factory has conducted a test to study the quality of raw material bought by the GPO and found that many batches did not meet standard requirements.
Witit previously insisted the GPO had carefully random-tested all raw material it had purchased from China and found no problems.
However, he said he had already asked the Chinese supplier to return all the raw materials.
"So far, we have not used this raw material to produce any paracetamol. So don't worry," he said.
The Public Health Minister's assistant Pasit Sakdanarong said the minister last week had asked Withit to explain what really happened with the quality of the raw material purchased from China - but Withit did not give a clear explanation to Pradith.
"Withit could not answer why the GPO had made a decision to import more than 130 tonnes of raw material to produce paracetamol and keep it in storage. It was not necessary to keep this raw material by itself as at that time as the GPO did not need to produce any paracetamol," he said.
"Why did the GPO not release this raw material to other pharmaceutical factories producing paracetamol, instead of hiring a private storage to keep this raw material for two years?" he asked.
To resolve the problem of drug stockpiles in the long term, Pradith said the GPO must make a raw material management plan and production plant to estimate the amount of raw material needed to be stocked in Thailand.
As for compensating the Chinese supplier for returning the raw material, Pradith said the GPO had insisted it could get all the money back from the purchase.