China has banned a breast-enlarging liquid that was injected into more than 300,000 women and caused such pain for some that they had their breasts removed, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The liquid, Ao Mei Ding, made by Fu Hua Pharmaceutical Co., was approved for general use in 2000 before completing required testing and was used in hospitals and beauty parlors throughout the country, the China Daily said.
"It continuously caused negative effects and consumer complaints, and the administration's monitoring center believes its safety cannot be guaranteed," the State Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on its Web site.
China has suffered a string of scandals over dangerous and often deadly medicines and treatments, often blamed on lax or corrupt official oversight or dishonest doctors.
Earlier this week, state media said five people died after they received a drug for gallbladder inflammation that contained a counterfeit ingredient that can cause kidney failure.
In other cases, patients have been maimed or killed by doctors who performed complex treatments for which they weren't qualified, such as surgery to lengthen limbs.
Breast-enlargement and other cosmetic surgeries have soared in popularity in China amid rising incomes and pressure for good looks to land jobs and attract spouses.
In the Ao Mei Ding case, the China Daily described the treatment as "manmade fat" but didn't say what it contained. It quoted a doctor who called it a colloid, a term that refers to a variety of gelatinous liquids.
The director of plastic surgery at Peking Union Hospital in Beijing, Qiao Qun, said an estimated 300,000 women were injected with the liquid over the past five years, the China Daily said.
Phone calls to Qiao's hospital office on Thursday weren't answered.
Hundreds of women who received the injections wrote to the drug agency in November to complain, the China Daily said.
Extreme pain, amputation
A report in January by the agency listed 183 cases of side effects, the China Daily said. Women quoted by the newspaper said they suffered extreme chronic pain, and it said some had their breasts removed.
"Major hospitals would never use Ao Mei Ding. It is the smaller hospitals and beauty salons that use it to gain big profits," Zhang Yiming, director of plastic surgery at Wuhan Union Hospital in central China, was quoted as saying.
Several women have filed unsuccessful lawsuits against hospitals that used the liquid, and plastic surgeons in Wuhan called in 2004 for their colleagues to stop using it, the newspaper said.
A woman in her 20s who was quoted by the China Daily and identified by the nickname Xiao Cao, or Little Cao, said she suffered pain after receiving injections of the liquid in 2003. She said blood seeped out of her breasts after she gave birth the following year.
"I was able to do nothing but cry, because I was afraid that the injected liquid was in my milk," she was quoted as saying.
Cao said the failed treatment prompted quarrels with her husband and bouts of depression. The couple divorced last year.
The woman had the liquid removed by a surgeon last July, the China Daily said. She said doctors used a laser scalpel to cut out liquid that had coagulated in her flesh.
"I can never forget the smell of my flesh being burned by the laser," she said.
The drug's manufacturer, Fu Hua, based in the northeastern province of Jilin, was ordered to "deal with the incidents caused by the use of the product," the drug agency statement said, without giving details of what the company was expected to do.
A phone call to the drug company's headquarters after normal business hours on Thursday wasn't answered.
In the tainted drug case, six patients also are hospitalized after receiving the gallbladder drug, Armillarisni A, which contained diglycol, a chemical that can cause kidney failure but that a vendor passed off as a normal ingredient and that quality inspectors failed to detect, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The drug company, Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd. in China's northeast, has been shut down and seven people, including the vendor, have been detained, Xinhua said.