Toxic cough syrup
Toxic cough syrup refers to a 2007 scandal with Panamanian pharmaceutical manufacturers using diethylene glycol, which they believed to be glycerine, to make cough syrup. Diethylene glycol is a less expensive alternative to glycerine, however, diethylene glycol is nephrotoxic and can result in Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS), especially in children.
The imported diethylene glycol was from a Chinese manufacturer, sold under the name TD glycerine, which means 'glycerine substitute'; after dealing from a Spanish middleman in filling the customs declaration in Panama, the name was changed to glycerine.
In Panama, at least 365 deaths were believed to be linked to the cough syrup.
Tracing the toxic syrup to its source has been difficult for health care providers and governmental agencies due to difficult communication between First World and Third World governments. For example, Dr. Michael L. Bennish, an American pediatrician who works in developing countries, had been volunteering in Bangladesh as a physician and had noticed a number of deaths that seemed to coincide with the distribution of the government-issued cough syrup. The government rebuffed his attempts at investigating the medication. In response, Dr. Bennish smuggled bottles of the syrup in his suitcase when returning to the United States, allowing pharmaceutical laboratories in Massachusetts to identify the poisonous diethylene glycol, which can appear very similar to the less dangerous glycerine. Dr. Bennish went on to author a 1995 article in the British Medical Journal about his experience, writing that, given the amount of medication prescribed, death tolls "must [already] be in the tens of thousands."
Reaction from China
The State Food and Drug Administration did not regard the toxic cough syrup scandal as being China's fault. In fact, the Chinese manufacturer exported the diethylene glycol under the name TD glycerine which was changed to glycerine by middleman Aduanas Javier de Gracia when he filled the customs declaration in Panama.
- Walt Bogdanich (May 6, 2007). "From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine". New York Times. "The syrupy poison, diethylene glycol, is an indispensable part of the modern world, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze."
- 毒糖浆巴拿马致死百人 我药监局称责任不在中方 (Chinese)
- 质检总局：巴拿马药品中毒事件责任在巴商人 (Chinese)