China orders nationwide inspection of drug factories

"Drug administrations should immediately launch comprehensive checks of raw materials purchased, management of materials and examination of finished products of pharmaceutical plants," the State Food and Drug Administration said in an order reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.

It didn't say how many factories would be affected, but China has hundreds of drug production lines run, by Chinese companies on their own or in joint ventures with foreign partners.

Also Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao sent officials to investigate the deaths caused by the gallbladder drug and promised that "anyone who broke the law will be punished," state television reported.

Other patients have been hospitalized after being injected with the drug, which was meant to treat inflamed gallbladders but was made with a toxic chemical that causes kidney failure, the AP reports.

The drug company, Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., blamed a supplier that it said supplied toxic diglycol instead of propylene glycol, which is used in the drug. The company said its safety inspectors failed to catch the switch.

The vendor and seven people associated with the factory have been detained.

Investigators have found the same toxic chemical, diglycol, in four other drugs made by Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical, Xinhua said.

The team sent by Wen to Qiqihar in China's northeast includes police and officials from the health ministries and China's drug regulator, state television said on its evening news.

Chinese leaders frequently send such investigative teams from Beijing to investigate high-profile accidents because they don't trust local officials to report truthfully.