Cough syrup fatalities: As medical disasters continue, Punjab govt defends itself

PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid says so far probe indicates syrup itself is not poisonous.

Peer Muhammad December 31, 2012

ISLAMABAD: With a string of health-related disasters affecting Punjab this year, the provincial government has defended itself against accusations of inefficiency and irresponsibility.

Last week, fatalities reached a total of 35 in Gujranwala as a result of a toxic cough syrup consumed by the victims. Earlier in the year, over a 100 patients died in Lahore after using substandard medicines – and before that, the dengue virus spread havoc in the province.

Defending the provincial government’s role, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader and Punjab government spokesperson Senator Pervez Rashid said, “It is not the inefficiency of the provincial government, but it is the fault of the victims, who misused the syrup”. Rashid said that so far, investigation has proved that the syrup was not poisonous.

Pervez Rashid

“Everything has a side effect if it is used in a way that’s contradictory to instructions,” Rashid told The Express Tribune. The spokesperson’s stance, however, was contrary to the claim of Adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister on Health Affairs Salman Rafiq, who stated that the poisonous effect was the result of the presence of substandard raw materials in the syrup.

Rashid did, on the other hand, admit that the matter was still being probed in order to establish who the culprits were. “An investigation is under way and action will be taken against the pharmaceutical company if found guilty,” he assured. The PML-N leader said that the provincial government had taken action against such companies in the past, as cases pertaining to previous such incidents have been taken up in courts, where the government is actively pursuing them.

Rashid added that the provincial government successfully overcame the Dengue epidemic within a year, saying that this was unheard of anywhere else. “We received appreciation from across the globe for controlling the lethal dengue virus within a short span of time,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2012.



Fuzz | 9 years ago | Reply

@ Maria: I agree with your comment for the most part (with regards to drug abuse ONLY): a lot of people all over the world die due to drug abuse (whether be intentional or unintentional). However, I have never heard of people dying of drug 'abuse' in waves, and largely due to the one specific brand drug. Only in this case have numerous people died upon consumption of Tyno only. Moreover, if what you are saying is correct, then I beg to ask: why are people suddenly abusing one specific drug? Is it the case that Tyno was not being abused earlier on in the year, but suddenly, numerous people have begun to abuse it, and dying as a result? And why is the brandname Tyno coming up over and over and over again? There are hundreds of other cough syrups in the market: why are people (ab)using Tyno only? Also, the fatalities that you are referring to (in the West), where people die due to drug abuse, please note that this happens when people mix over-the-counter medication with other substances, such as other drugs, alcohol, and recreational drugs, not by a mere overdose of over-the-counter medication. If there were the case, these drugs would not be sold over-the-counter, as is the case with, say, sleeping pills. And, finally, why wasn't the provincial government on alert when many people were killed during the first wave? On some level people can understand that the first wave was an accident--if shouldn't have happened, but it did unfortunately, but that's the inherent nature of accidents. But this second wave is a travesty, and cannot be defended. Basically, I believe your defence of Punjab's government is weak. Although the provincial government's anti-dengue drive is not the topic of discussion (and can thus be seen as you trying to deviate from the topic at hand), many people will agree: it was exceedingly effective: SO?! Remember that it too came as a result of hundreds of people suffering and dying from dengue. Doesn't particularly put the provincial government in any good light.

Maria | 9 years ago | Reply

@Truth: You seem to forget that all citizens have responsibilities too. Dengue was brought under control because the public was taught the importance of controlling reservoirs where mosquitos breed. The control of Dengue in Pakistani Punjab is being held as a model even in neighbouring India. Dextromethorphan is sold all over the world including Western countries where it can be obtained without a prescription. The product carries a warning as do most over the counter medications but unfortunately there are hundreds of deaths every year in the United States from people who willfully abuse and misuse over the counter medications- be they cough syrops, decongestants or anti allergic medications. Punjab remains the best managed, most stable and developing province in Pakistan largely due to the efforts of Shahbaz Sharif. I am disappointed to hear him give in to the uneducated masses who don't understand the reality of drug abuse. He should have called for better awareness and labelling of the adverse effects of cough syrops but to remove Tyno cough syrop because some citizens don't understand their own responsibilities is short sighted.

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