Arrest warrants issued after DEG kills 26 infants in Bangladesh

syrupThere has been yet another case of medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol (DEG) leading to patient deaths, this time in Bangladesh.

Health officials in the country say that so far 26 children aged between 11 months and three years have died after taking paracetamol (acetaminophen) syrup contaminated with DEG that was manufactured by local drug producer Rid Pharmaceutical Co.

Earlier this week a court in the capital Dhaka issued arrest warrants for the managing director of the company (Mizanur Rahman), two other directors (Sheuli Rahman and Abdul Gani) and two pharmacists working at the firm (Mahbubul Islam and Enamul Haque). A court hearing is due on August 17.

Bangladesh’s Minister of Health, Ruhul Haq, claimed earlier that the DEG had been mixed with propylene glycol, the usual solvent used in the product because it was around five times cheaper. The children died from renal failure, a hallmark of DEG poisoning.

Bangladesh’s Directorate of Drug Administration has ordered Rid Pharma’s manufacturing facility in Brahmanbaria to be shut down while the investigation proceeds.

The case is the latest in a string of incidents in which people have been killed by DEG-contaminated medicines. Bangladesh was also affected by one of the worst cases on record, with 339 deaths attributed to paracetamol syrup contaminated with DEG from propylene glycol in 1990-92.

Last year, 84 children in Nigeria died after consuming a teething formula product in which glycerin was contaminated with DEG. In 2006, 46 people died in Panama after taking a government-made cough syrup containing DEG, and in 1996, glycerin contaminated with DEG in a cough syrup killed 85 people in Haiti. In 1990, 47 people died in Nigeria after taking cough syrup contaminated with DEG.

The following table gives an indication of the reported death toll attributed to DEG contamination around the world in the last few decades:

Year Country Product No. of deaths
1937 USA sulfanilimide 107
1969 South Africa sedative 7
1986 India medicinal glycerin 14
1990 Nigeria acetaminophen syrup 47
1990/2 Bangladesh acetaminophen syrup 339
1995/6 Haiti cough medicine 85
1998 India cough medicine 33
2006 Panama cough and anti-allergy syrup 46
2006/7 USA toothpaste 0
2007 Panama toothpaste 0
2008 Nigeria teething formula 84

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