BEIJING - China's former top drug regulator went on trial Wednesday accused of taking bribes to approve untested medicine, including an antibiotic that killed at least 10 patients last year before it was taken off the market.
The case is one of several that have damaged confidence at home and abroad in China's commitment to ensuring its products are safe.
Dozens of people have died in Panama after taking medicine contaminated with a chemical traced to a Chinese company. China also was the source of the toxic chemical in pet food that has killed an unknown number dogs and cats in the United States.
Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of the State Food and Drug Administration, is on trial in Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate Court, said a court official who gave his name only as Wang.
He refused to discuss the trial beyond confirming its start.
Zheng was fired in 2005 on charges he took up to $780,000 in bribes to approve medicine that had not been tested to ensure its safety. He was expelled earlier this year from the ruling Communist Party.
State media have reported that drugs improperly approved by Zheng's agency included an antibiotic that killed at least 10 patients last year before it was taken off the market.
The official Xinhua News Agency said earlier that prosecutors had charged Zheng with dereliction of duty, taking bribes and leading a "dissolute life."
Zheng has not commented publicly on the charges.
Zheng's case prompted a sweeping investigation of the Chinese drug industry. Authorities ordered a review of 170,000 drug licenses, most of them granted in 1999-2002, when Zheng was in office.
Since then, China's regulatory problems have been highlighted by reports that a Chinese company sold diethylene glycol, a chemical cousin of antifreeze, that ended up in medicine that killed at least 51 people in Panama.
Chinese firms also have been cited as the source of pet food ingredients tainted with melamine, a chemical that has killed an unknown number of dogs and cats in the United States and led to a recall of 154 brands of pet food.