From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

The New York Times noted in an article called From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker and published on 6 May 2007:

A poisonous solvent sold by counterfeiters and mixed into drugs has figured in mass poisonings around the world that killed thousands.

This is something that has concerned us in particular in Mongolia where Chinese counterfeit items turn up everywhere and where there is no real control over them. Medications in particular are a problem. We have purchased medicines only to find out later that the use by date on the medication was two years in the past.

The Times further noted about Panama where the latest wave of deaths appears to have occurred:

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison [diethylene glycol] as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

Beyond Panama and China, toxic syrup has caused mass poisonings in Haiti, Bangladesh, Argentina, Nigeria and twice in India.

Remember too the pet deaths in the US recently? The Times noted about these:

China is already being accused by United States authorities of exporting wheat gluten containing an industrial chemical, melamine, that ended up in pet food and livestock feed. The F.D.A. recently banned imports of Chinese-made wheat gluten after it was linked to pet deaths in the United States.

This is something to be concerned about in Mongolia, where much medicine must, for economic reasons only, be sourced from cheaper suppliers. China is one of those suppliers and the toxic syrup is used in cough and cold medications amongst other things.

In addition, on a more personal basis, friends of mine have taken locally sourced diabetes (this is referred to as “sugar disease” in Mongolia) medicine but their sugar levels have been all over the place. Their sugar levels have not been controlled. Replacing the locally sourced medications with the “same” drugs but purchased overseas has resulted in his sugar levels coming under control.

The medications taken were supposed to have been from German or Indonesian manufacturers but given the amount of counterfeit material that ends up in Mongolia, who can tell. Significantly, when the medications were sourced from suppliers that were known to provide reliable medicines, the sugar levels came under control – there was no change in the type of medicine taken, just the supplier.

This is the worst type of counterfeiting and one that governments should pursue vigorously, and the Chinese government in particular.

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