Hong Kong: Mucormycosis Drug Found Contaminated

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Hong Kong Department of Health (DH) announced that follow-up investigations into patient cases of invasive gastrointestinal mucormycosis in public hospitals last month had revealed that one of the pharmaceutical products prescribed to the patients concerned was found to be contaminated.

A DH spokesman said laboratory tests by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on four batches of allopurinol (brand name: Purinol, registration no: HK-30662) taken from Queen Mary Hospital were found to be contaminated by a fungus called Rhizopus microsporus. The batch numbers are 804159, 807199, 808179 and 811015.

The spokesman said Rhizopus microsporus could be found in soil and decaying matter. "Such kind of fungal infection is not common. Only immunocompromised patients will be infected and suffer from severe infection with high fatality," he said.

The drug concerned was manufactured by a local pharmaceutical company called Europharm.


Allopurinol is commonly used to treat hyperuricemia and chronic gout. It is also commonly used as a prophylactic treatment for patients on chemotherapeutic treatments.

DH inspected the company this afternoon and instructed the operator to immediately withhold all manufacturing operations. Pharmaceutical and environmental samples from the company have been taken for investigation, including laboratory tests to ascertain HKU's findings.

The company has also been ordered to stop the distribution of all the affected products. It was reported that some two million tablets of four batches had been delivered to the Hospital Authority, DH, institutions of Correctional Services Department, pharmacies and private medical practitioners.

DH has sent letters to all doctors, hospitals and pharmacists to alert them about the findings. The spokesman called on members of the public to stop using Purinol, the affected pharmaceutical products produced by the company for the time being.

Pharmacies and drug stores should also stop selling Purinol. "They have been advised not to use Purinol and should dispense allopurinol manufactured by other manufacturers for the time being.