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Death Toll from Bad Medicines in Panama Climbs to 100

May 4, 2007

PANAMA CITY – Panamanian special prosecutor Dimas Guevara reported this week that the death toll of patients who have died over the past six months from taking medicines provided by the Social Security System contaminated with diethylene glycol has reached 100.

Guevara told the press that there have been 365 reported deaths allegedly linked to the tainted medicines, of which 100 have been confirmed, 62 have been ruled out and the remaining 203 cases are being investigated.

The prosecutor added that 93 cases were confirmed as victims of poisoning through the analysis of clinical records carried out by the Institute of Forensic Medicine, and the other seven by studying the bodies after they had been exhumed.

The poisoning cases date back to between June and October of last year , when the first  deaths from contaminated medicines occurred (NT, Oct. 13, 2006).

Guevara said that next week the Institute of Forensic Medicine will disinter another 11 bodies at cemeteries in the capital and cities around the country, bringing to 49 the number of bodies exhumed since February.

The Attorney General’s Office in February created a special unit in the First Judicial District directed by special prosecutor Dimas Guevara, who together with other officials from that and other agencies are delving into the cases of poisoning.

Nonetheless, the last report from the Health Ministry and the Social Security System last February acknowledged only 52 deaths from medicines contaminated with diethylene glycol, a chemical used in brake fluid and radiator coolant that causes those who swallow it to suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drastic reduction in the flow of urine, and sometimes kidney failure, paralysis and death.

The number of known deaths has doubled since February.

It was determined that the medicines were mostly taken by patients with high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney malfunction.

About 10 people are being investigated in the case, including Social Security officials and representatives of the importing company Medicom, which in turn blames the Spanish supplier Rasfer International for delivering diethylene glycol imported from China instead of pure glycerine.

 

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