Amid an ongoing supply chain crisis affecting cancer treatments, the Biden Administration is turning to China for the outsourcing of cancer drugs, enlisting a shady Chinese company that was once investigated for making antibiotics out of toxic gutter sludge.
As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Biden’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the announcement last week that it would seek to purchase the chemotherapy drug cisplatin from Qilu Pharmaceutical, in response to what experts have called “one of the worst chemotherapy drug shortages in history.” While the FDA has not yet formally approved the use of cisplatin in the United States, it has granted a temporary waiver in this case in order to deal with the supply chain crisis, in the hopes of expediting treatments for patients suffering from lung cancer, cervical cancer, and other forms of cancer.
However, Qilu was investigated by Chinese authorities in 2012, after it was revealed that the company had used discarded cooking oil, also known as “gutter oil,” in the production of antibiotics. Gutter oil is frequently used in Chinese restaurants and food manufacturers, and has been for the last several decades due to being a cheaper alternative to cooking oils. While Qilu ultimately accepted responsibility for the scandal, the company claimed it was unaware of the ingredients being used by its suppliers.
Qilu’s gutter oil scandal was just one example of a larger pattern of tactics employed by Chinese pharmaceutical companies to save money, known as “cut-rate practices,” according to the pharmaceutical industry publication Fierce Pharma.
Other examples of Chinese pharmaceutical scandals include an ordeal in 2008 where a Chinese company produced the heart drug heparin by using contaminated raw materials from pigs, which led to the deaths of 81 Americans. Ten years later, in 2018, the FDA was forced to recall valsartan, a Chinese-made blood pressure drug which was determined to contain carcinogenic materials.
Without directly acknowledging Qilu’s past scandal, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that the agency would “very carefully assess product quality,” and would require that its partners “ensure the products are safe for patients.”