Regulators Closely Monitoring Toxic Syrup


The New York Times reported last week that a diethylene glycol, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in antifreeze, can also kill people. If the syrupy poison is ingested, first the kidneys fail, and then the central nervous system begins to fail. Paralysis can result which makes breathing difficult and then impossible without assistance. Ultimately, most victims die. Many of the victims are children who are poisoned at the hands of unsuspecting parents.

Over the years, diethylene glycol has been used by counterfeiters in many varieties of medicine; cough syrup, fever medication and injectable drugs. The counterfeiters use the cheap sweet -tasting solvent instead of the safe, more expensive syrup (usually glycerin).

Toxic syrup has been involved in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands of people have died. Records and interviews show that in 3 of the last 4 cases the syrup was made in China, which is a major source of counterfeit drugs. Last year, government officials in Panama unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine. As a result, families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5% pure glycerin. The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label.

An examination of these two major poisoning cases last year (in Panama and earlier in China) shows how China’s safety regulations have fallen behind its growing role as a low cost supplier to the world.

The US Food and Drug Administration warned drug makers and suppliers in the United States “to be especially vigilant” and looking out for diethylene glycol in medicine. China has already been accused by US authorities of exporting wheat gluten with the industrial chemical, melamine that ended up in pet and animal food. The FDA recently banned imports of Chinese made wheat gluten after it was linked to pet deaths in the US.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious illness due to a defective drug, contact a South Carolina Defective Drug Lawyer at Louthian Law Firm, P.A., immediately, even if only for an inquiry as to whether or not you may have a case.

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