Drugs for kids

By Wang Yiqiong Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-18 22:23:01

A little girl stands outside of the Fengyun Kindergarten in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, on March 11. Photo: CFP

Du Rongrong(pseudonym), a young mother in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, has just got her daughter's health check result. But the information didn't do anything to clear up her fears.

The Xi'an government has been organizing free health checks for students at the two kindergartens that gave kids antiviral drugs without notifying their parents or government organizations. The kindergartens hoped to avoid students missing days at school from sickness, since the school charged by the day.

At least 65 of over 390 children who attended two kindergartens in Xi'an accused of illegally administering antiviral drugs were found to have results outside the normal range during a health examination, the local government told the Xinhua News Agency on Sunday,

But this may just be ordinary childhood problems. "We haven't found that the 65 samples shared common abnormalities," said an official with the health department of Xi'an, indicating there was no proof of collective damage to children caused by the drugs.

However, parents were anxious about the veracity of the tests. "We don't trust the results much," Du said. "Many parents planned to go out of town to do additional tests on children."

Suspicious results

Several parents have complained about children having stomachaches or night sweats, which may have been caused by taking the medicine.

Du said many children were found to have abnormal results in urine and blood tests. However, doctors either said it was fine, or couldn't offer any diagnosis at all.

For example, quite a lot of results showed suspected urinary "occult blood," invisible traces of blood in the urine that reflect possible damage to the kidney or the liver. But doctors were not able to tell if the children were suffering from a particular condition, but suggested further urinary sediment tests.

Du said the urinary sediment test was not covered by the government but the parents were willing to pay for it themselves.

Parents also have doubts about the blood tests. Many children were found to have higher than usual cardiac enzymes. The medical experts from the government working group couldn't confirm damage to cardiac muscles based on the results, an answer which gave little comfort to worried parents.

Strangely, the result of one child with a long-standing heart problem showed everything was normal. Another child who did not take the ultrasound test somehow received a test result in his name, making other parents suspicious about their own results.

Even the number of children with abnormal results is in doubt. The government working group said they counted the children whose parents received a notice of the abnormal results and then brought them to register for further tests.

Du believed the number is not precise. "Some parents took children to hospitals not designated by the government, and that their results were not added." She said that a lot more children were taken to hospital on Monday, and their results have yet to be included.

Government officials refused to give further comment before health examination of all 1,455 children is completed and professionals have finished studying the "abnormal" cases.

It is estimated there are over 2,000 children affected by the scandal.

Spreading scandal

As Xi'an parents look for the truth, the scandal is spreading elsewhere in China.

In Northeast China's Jilin, Jilin Province, investigations confirmed that the Fanglin Kindergarten, a local private kindergarten, had given children the prescription medicine moroxydine hydrochloride, local authorities announced in the afternoon of Saturday.

On the same day, in Yichang, Hubei Province, numerous parents gathered in front of the entrance of a local nursery, the Xingang Kindergarten, protesting a similar activity, Xinhua reported.

Panicked parents found that the kindergarten fed children certain pills. The principal of the kindergarten denied giving antiviral drugs, saying they only gave children vitamin C.

The Soong Ching Ling Foundation has stated they will discontinue relations with the two kindergartens in Xi'an caught in the scandal, and that they can no longer use the title of the foundation.

In Jilin, the city's education bureau has revoked the kindergarten's business license. Local police have arrested the person in charge of the kindergarten.

The Yangcheng Evening News reported that the Jilin city government had opened a special section to provide free health checks for children from the kindergarten in Jilin Children's Hospital.

The hospital had done physical examinations on 114 children, most of whom have normal results.

"We don't know what the results mean, I don't understand the indexes. There is no doctor to check on us," a mother, surnamed Yang told the China News Service.

Lack of supervision

Back in Xi'an, local police has found from November 2008 to October 2013, Fengyun Kindergarten used a medical organization's name to buy 54,600 tablets of moroxydine hydrochloride in 10 batches, local newspaper Chinese Business View reported.

A regulation issued in 2012 made it clear that a kindergarten should be equipped with either a clinic or a healthcare room.

Huang Linxia, the "doctor"  at Fengyun Kindergarten, was not qualified to prescribe drugs for patients since the kindergarten does not have a clinic but a healthcare room.

Huang was found to only have a physician's certificate from Guangdong Province, but was not registered in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.

A Xinhua editorial blamed the drug-supervising body and educational authority of Xi'an for lacking of supervision, since it had no idea that the kindergartens bought a large quantity of drugs under a fake name and dosed children for five years.

Sun Ran is a doctor working at a clinic in a public kindergarten in Beijing. She said the action of the physicians of the two kindergartens in Xi'an looked absurd to her.

"I  would never prescribe drugs for children," said Sun, adding that if a child is sick, she would send him or her to hospital.

China's Ministry of Education and National Heath and Family Planning Commission jointly issued an announcement on Monday requiring local branches check all kindergartens and primary schools for other cases of illicit dosing. The results of the investigation should be submitted to the authorities before April 15, the announcement said.

The authorities also said schools must get permission from at the county government level or higher to give drugs to students collectively under medical instruction, and parents or students can choose to refuse to take them.

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