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Six more dead as cough syrup toll rises to 41

30 December, 2012

GUJRANWALA: Six more people lost their lives to a deadly cough syrup, increasing the death toll from the tainted medicine to 41 on Saturday.

Raids by police are being at various medical stores in order to catch those who are still selling the cough syrup. Various patients have been brought to the Gujranwala hospital in the last three days. Many of those under treatment are still in a critical condition. The six people who died on Saturday also included former naib nazim Chaudhry Irfan Latif. Many factories producing the notorious cough syrup have been shut down and raids are being conducted in order to catch the pharmacists still selling the cough syrup.

Police authorities have seized a huge cache of syrups for investigation.

According to hospital sources, names of four of the deceased are Zahid, Saleem, Saghir and Allah Ditta. The sources said that eight more syrup-affected patients were under treatment in a serious condition in the hospital. Gujranwala DCO Najam Ahmed told newsmen that a medical store in Mohallah Bakhtay Wala was sealed after a sufficient stock of the intoxicated syrup was found there. He said the sample of the syrup was sent to laboratory for analysis.

At least 24 people, mostly drug addicts seeking a fix, have died up till now after drinking the toxic cough syrup, officials said on Saturday. The deaths started occurring Wednesday in Gujranwala, with most of the victims drug addicts who took the syrup for intoxication, police and doctors said. "At least 24 people have died after taking an unknown cough syrup," local health department official doctor Mah Jabeen told AFP. "Seventeen people died at hospital, while seven others were brought dead," she said, adding that only five affected by syrup were now under treatment at hospital.

Local hospital chief doctor Anwar Aman said some 54 patients were earlier brought to hospital who said their condition deteriorated after taking cough syrups. The victims were between 20 and 40 years old and a majority had a history of drug addiction, Aman said, adding that so far the culprit syrup has not been identified. Senior police official Azam Mehr confirmed the toll and said samples of cough syrups available at local pharmacies have been collected and sent to laboratories.

"Police and health department have started inquiries and investigations into the deaths," he added. Last month at least 19 people were killed in Lahore after drinking toxic cough syrup. In January around 100 heart patients died in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, after taking locally-made tainted medicine.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over the loss of the human lives due to the syrup, and has ordered that all the stock of imported raw material being used for the preparation of the syrup and the manufactured syrup be seized immediately and action be taken as per law against the responsible persons. The chief minister directed that samples of the seized syrup be immediately sent abroad for test and said that further action will be taken after the lab report.

Shahbaz said that an effective mechanism of checking of raw material and medicines was essential. He said that the Health Department will have to play an effective role for prevention of such tragic incidents in future.

End.

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