Toxic cough syrup


Toxic cough syrup describes a 2007 scandal with Panamanian pharmaceutical producers using diethylene glycol, which they thought to b glycerine, to make cough syrup. Diethylene glycol is a more affordable alternative to glycerine, however, diethylene glycol is actually nephrotoxic and can lead to Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS), especially in young children.


The imported diethylene glycol was coming from a Chinese manufacturer, sold under the actual name TD glycerine, which means ‘glycerine substitute’; after dealing from a Spanish middleman in filling the customs declaration in Panama, the name had been changed to glycerine.

In Panama, at least 365 deaths were thought to be linked to this cough syrup.

Tracing the toxic syrup to its source has become difficult for healthcare providers and governmental agencies because of difficult communication between First World and Under developed governments. For example, Dr. Michael L. Bennish, an American family doctor who works within developing countries, had been volunteering in Bangladesh to be a physician and had noticed numerous deaths that appeared to coincide with the distribution of the government-issued cough syrup. The government rebuffed his attempts at looking into the medication. In response, Dr. Bennish smuggled bottles of the syrup in his suitcase when returning to america, allowing pharmaceutical laboratories in Massachusetts to spot the poisonous diethylene glycol, which can appear very like the less harmful glycerine. Dr. Bennish went on to author a 1995 article within the British Medical Journal about his experience, writing that, given the quantity of medication prescribed, death tolls “must already be in the tens of thousands. ”

Reaction from China

The State Foods and Drugs Administration failed to regard the toxic cough syrup scandal to be China’s fault. In fact, the Chinese producer exported the diethylene glycol under the name TD glycerine that was changed to glycerine by middleman Aduanas Javier de Gracia as soon as he filled the actual customs declaration within Panama.


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