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Schering Resumes Sales in Brazil

July 21, 1998

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ The Brazilian subsidiary of German pharmaceutical giant Schering AG, Tuesday resumed sales of all its products, except for its contraceptives after phony birth control pills were blamed for several unwanted pregnancies.

Brazil’s Health Ministry said the sales suspension ordered July 3 was lifted because Schering had successfully addressed several problems detected at the company’s Sao Paulo plant.

``The main problem, which has now been corrected, was the fact that the handling of products between the production line and the warehouse was insufficiently controlled,″ the Health Ministry said Tuesday. ``And it was because of this problem that fake Microvlar birth control pills reached the market.″

Some 20 women have reported unwanted pregnancies after taking placebos, which the company said were intended solely to test out new packaging equipment.

The fake pills, made of lactose and sugar, were supposed to have been incinerated after the tests, but were stolen and sold illegally. Some 650,000 packages, containing 21 placebos each, were manufactured. It is unclear how many packages were stolen and distributed.

Schering is not related to Madison, N.J.-based Schering-Plough Corp., which has launched an advertising campaign to notify consumers of that fact.

On July 13, the government authorized Schering to resume selling 24 of the 37 products it produces _ including those used to treat leukemia, multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer. On Tuesday it authorized sales of the remaining products, except for Microvlar.

Microvlar sales will resume as soon as Schering submits a plan detailing how it plans to recall and incinerate about 1 million Microvlar packages _ fake and genuine _ believed to still be in the market.

Schering said the plan would be submitted later this week.

While Microvlar sales are still forbidden, its production was allowed to resume on July 13, after nearly three weeks under a government-ordered suspension.

The company is also preparing an appeal contesting the $2.5 million government fine for taking more than a month to notify health authorities that the phony contraceptives had been stolen. The government also said the packages of fake pills were not identified as such.

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