China smacks 48 officials, including ex-FDA official, in Changsheng vaccine scandal

China’s anticorruption authorities have punished 48 officials found responsible for the Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences vaccine scandal that provoked public outrage last summer.

Wu Zhen, former deputy director of the old China FDA, was handed over to prosecutors after an investigation found probable duty-related crimes, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Saturday. The vaccine scandal erupted last July when Changsheng, one of the largest Chinese vaccine makers, was accused of faking data on its rabies vaccine.

Though the government announced the allegations against Wu along with disciplinary action against other officials involved in the vaccine scandal, Wu apparently faces accusations beyond vaccines. The agency said Wu abused his power during his time at the drug watchdog, “severely jeopardizing the state’s supervision over drugs.” Wu is also accused of nepotism and taking bribes, among others.

Wu was among six so-called central government-supervised officials who were sacked or asked to resign after the vaccine scandal emerged. Those include former FDA chief Bi Jingquan, who resigned last August from his new post as deputy director of the State Administration for Market Regulation, a newly formed agency that comprises the National Medical Product Administration and other functions.

Altogether, 42 other lower-level government officials—all of whom had worked with the drug agency, in Jilin Province, Changchun municipal government, or Changchun high-tech industries development area—were also punished.

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The Changchun-based vaccines maker not only fabricated records related to its rabies vaccine but previously offered substandard DPT vaccines to children under the country’s national immunization program, officials have said. The case immediately triggered a public outcry, as Chinese citizens shocked by Changsheng’s practices and frustrated by the government’s failure to catch the problem earlier took to social media to express their concerns.

Since the scandal flared up, Changsheng has been fined $1.3 billion. It’s in the process of delisting from Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and its chairwoman and 14 other executives have been arrested.

The official punishments come on the heels of two new vaccine-related scandals in China. In one case, 145 children in an eastern Chinese city were found to have received expired oral polio vaccine from a health center. In another case that emerged last week, a clinic in the northern city of Shijiazhuang was found to have deliberately given 29 children Sanofi’s Hib vaccine when the parents had actually asked and paid for the more expensive five-in-one vaccine Pentaxim.