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Toxic cough syrup kills 17 in Lahore

27 November, 2012

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LAHORE: The death toll from drinking a toxic cough syrup reached 17 as two more people died in Shahdara Town, forcing authorities to close three pharmacies and a medicine factory, officials said on Monday.

On Saturday evening, several people fell ill and were shifted to Mayo Hospital after they took the syrup. Five of them died en route to hospital while seven more died on Sunday, with the victims mostly drug addicts who took the syrup to get high, said local police station chief Atif Zulfiqar.

"At least 16 people, mostly drug addicts, have died after taking the toxic syrup," Zulfiqar told AFP, updating an earlier death toll of 13. "Some of the victims were found dead in a graveyard where addicts used to take different kinds of drugs," he said. Seven others died in hospital.

Eighteen-year-old Rizwan and 25-year-old Chand breathed their last at Mayo Hospital on Monday. Eight other victims were undergoing treatment at the hospital, with two in critical state. Thirty five-year-old Sikandar, 15-year-old Ramzan, 18-year-old Shahbaz, 22-year-old Parvez, 20-year-old Shehzad, 23-year-old Waqas, 45-year-old Jawed and others had lost their lives between Friday and Sunday.

Family members of the victims staged a protest on Shahdara Road on Monday for delay in post-mortem of the deceased. Three pharmacies have been sealed and their owners arrested, sources said, while the government has also banned sale of the syrup Tyno. Police have conducted raids at various medical stores and drug distributors. A murder case was also registered against the pharmaceutical company concerned and pharmacy owners.

Moreover, the Punjab Health Department has imposed a ban on the sale of the deadly cough syrup Tyno throughout the province. In this regard, all drug inspectors have been instructed to forfeit existing stock of the medicine, manufactured by Reko Pharmacal Lahore, and ensure a complete ban on its sale. Doctor Tahir Khalil at Lahore's Mayo Hospital said 20 victims aged 15 to 45 had been admitted after drinking the syrup and most had a history of addiction.

"One of the victims who was in critical condition died today and the total deaths in hospital are seven," Khalil said. "Six people were saved and were discharged after treatment, while seven others were still admitted to hospital," he added.

The health adviser for Punjab, Khawaja Salman Rafiq, said inspectors had shut down a drugs factory and sent samples to a laboratory for detailed analysis. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif taking notice of the deaths, constituted a three-member inquiry team headed by CMIT, which has started its proceedings. The inquiry committee will submit a report within 72 hours in the light of which action will be taken against those responsible.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) General Secretary Dr Izhar Ahmad told our sources it was possible that the amount of a specific ingredient of the medicine was used more than the required quantity. He said the PMA and the government had agreed on a law, which had not been imposed even after being passed. "If the bill was imposed, this incident may not have occurred and government could control further such incidents," he added.

The representatives of PMA in a statement said the sale of medicines by medical storeowners without prescription from a qualified doctor is a crime and is the root cause of the deaths caused by the cough syrup. The PMA office-bearers said it was unfortunate that all medicines were being sold over the counter without any prescription by a doctor. They also appealed to the Punjab health DG to constitute special teams of drug inspectors, who would visit various medical stores in disguise and purchase medicines from them without a prescriptions so the stores violating the law could be sealed. They appealed to the media also to play its role in highlighting such medical stores.


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