Skip to main content

Chinese media: Kindergartens suspected of drugging students to boost attendance

By Madison Park, CNN
March 19, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
Chinese parents gather in front of the Fanglin Kindergarten in Jilin city, over the school's feeding of a prescription drug to their children on March 17.
Chinese parents gather in front of the Fanglin Kindergarten in Jilin city, over the school's feeding of a prescription drug to their children on March 17.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State media: Several kindergartens in China gave prescription drugs to kids
  • Several students had side effects from taking antiviral drug, meant to treat flu
  • Xinhua: "Crisis of confidence in kindergarten managers"

(CNN) -- Kindergartens in three Chinese provinces are accused of giving prescription drugs to children without their parents' knowledge, according to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.

The drugs were given to prevent the children from getting sick in order to boost attendance, the news agency reported. The schools get paid based on attendance.

The scandal started last week in one kindergarten in the city of Xi'an and has now spread to several in the country, prompting China's education and health ministries to require its local branches to check all kindergartens and primary schools for illegally administered drugs, according to the Global Times newspaper.

Almost 2,000 children who attended the suspected kindergartens are receiving medical attention as some reported side effects from the medication, such as dizziness, stomachaches, leg pains and genital swelling, Xinhua said.

In an article Tuesday, state media called it a "crisis of confidence in kindergarten managers." It said that many parents are fed up with private kindergartens "which are poorly funded, poorly managed and frequently in a bad state of repair." China's preschools have been riddled with what the state media called "a long history of avoidable problems" such as food safety and physical abuse.

Some angry parents of the affected kindergartens rallied in front of the facilities and local government buildings.

First incidents

Last week, Xinhua reported that a parent accused a kindergarten in Xi'an, in Shaanxi province of administering an antiviral drug to children.

One parent told the Global Times that several kindergarteners had been complaining about stomachaches or night sweats. When their parents took them to the doctors, they found abnormal results in urine and blood tests -- traces of possible damage to the kidney or liver, the parent told Chinese media. The doctors were stumped over the diagnosis.

Local authorities said that the administrators at the Fengyun Lanwan Kindergarten had given children moroxydine ABOB, a medicine which can cause side effects such as sweating, loss of appetite and hypoglycemia since 2008. The prescription drug is used to treat the flu.

"Teachers told my child the pill was good for him but should be kept secret," one parent, identified as Zhang told Xinhua. "They have been taking it for nearly three years."

Another kindergarten in Xi'an, called Hongji Xincheng has also been suspected of following the same practice, Xinhua said. Together, the two kindergartens have 1,455 students.

Little known about drug in question

Dr. Nelson Lee, professor of infectious diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said not much is known about moroxydine ABOB.

The drug was produced in the 1950s and could have some antiviral effects such as suppressing the flu virus, but there are no reports or clinical trials in English.This means doctors know little about how helpful or harmful it could be.

For kindergartens to administer such a drug with little research or data is something Lee said he has never heard of.

"I think the most effective, suitable way to prevent flu infection is to ask the students to get flu vaccines every year. It's the proven, safest way to prevent flu, rather than taking long-term medication with unknown side effects and efficacy."

Similar incident in Jilin province

Days later, another kindergarten came under scrutiny, this time in the northeastern province of Jilin.

Investigators told Xinhua that a branch of the Fanglin Kindergarten in Jilin City had given some children the same drug -- moroxydine ABOB -- to prevent them from catching colds and infectious diseases. The kindergarten staff were reported to have said they were using the drug to improve attendance.

Three administrators have been arrested, according to Xinhua.

The kindergarten's 375 students are getting checked at hospitals, it reported.

Latest incident in Hubei province

The parents of children who had been attending Xingang Kindergarten in Hubei province, had become suspicious, telling Xinhua that their children developed symptoms such as stomachaches, irregular heartbeats, itching, vomiting and dizziness. Kindergarteners told their parents that they were forced to swallow "white, bitter-tasting pills."

The principal and vice principal of the kindergarten "admitted to having fed pupils an over-the-counter anti-fever drug and vitamins to boost their immunity and improve attendance," reported Xinhua on Tuesday.

The kindergarten, located in Yichang City, was shut and about 200 students are receiving medical check-ups, according to China's state media.

Authorities are looking into where the schools got their supply of prescription medication.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT