Chinese Drug Regulator Fired

BEIJING (AP) -- The deputy head of China's food and drug regulator is being investigated and has been dismissed from his post, a state news agency said Sunday, citing an anti-corruption agency.

The move comes three years after the former chief of the drug agency was executed after a bribe-taking scandal in which several deaths were blamed on medicines the agency approved.

Zhang Jingli, deputy director of the State Food and Drug Administration is under investigation for suspected "serious disciplinary violations," the official Xinhua News Agency said. The term is a standard party reference for graft and abuse of power.

Xinhua cited the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, an anti-corruption body, in a brief report that offered no details on what the suspected violations were. Calls to the anti-corruption agency rang unanswered while other domestic media outlets carried Xinhua's report.

A separate Xinhua report said that Zhang has been removed from his post at the drug agency, a position he had held since 2003.

In 2007, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the drug and food watchdog was executed after he was convicted of taking bribes to approve flawed medicine blamed for several deaths.

Zheng was sentenced to death for taking bribes to approve an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths and other substandard medicines.

His death sentence was unusually heavy even for China, believed to carry out more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined, and likely indicated the leadership's determination to confront the country's dire product safety record.

China said in April it would step up monitoring of a faulty rabies vaccine that was recalled last year but could have still been on the market. It was the latest in a series of quality problems in China in recent years, including tainted infant formula and other milk products that sickened children.

China's pharmaceutical industry is lucrative but often poorly regulated. Local manufacturers and other players along the drug supply chain have been blamed in recent years for deaths linked to counterfeit or shoddy medications at home and abroad.