Thursday, December 4, 2008

Diethylene glycol, killer on the prowl

Nigerian death toll rises in tainted infant teething drug

The latest victims to greed are the smallest among us…….

Over 45 babies have died in Nigeria from the tainted teething syrup, "My Pikin Baby Teething Mixture". The medicine is contaminated with diethylene glycol, causing kidney failure in the children who died.

The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has shut down the manufacturer of "My Pikin", Lagos-based Barewa Pharmaceuticals, as well as a company called Tranxell Ltd, which is believed to have supplied chemicals to Barewa and possibly to other local drugs manufacturers.

Diethylene-glycol-contaminated products have had a long history in dealing death. This chemical, which is used in antifreeze, is sometimes added illegally as a cheaper sweetener or thickening agent with deadly results.
So deadly in fact, that the catastrophic deaths following its first use in medicines led to the passage of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

In 1937 more than 100 U.S. citizens, many of them children, died when diethylene-glycol was added to an antibiotic to make the liquid form, Elixir Sulfanilamide.

And their deaths were painful as noted in a grieving mother’s letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"The first time I ever had occasion to call in a doctor for [Joan] and she was given Elixir of Sulfanilamide. All that is left to us is the caring for her little grave. Even the memory of her is mixed with sorrow for we can see her little body tossing to and fro and hear that little voice screaming with pain and it seems as though it would drive me insane. ... It is my plea that you will take steps to prevent such sales of drugs that will take little lives and leave such suffering behind and such a bleak outlook on the future as I have tonight."

According to the World-wide Organization of the Health during the 1980's and 1990's more than 600 people were killed by this type of contamination.

Furthermore it continues still today and is becoming more prevalent. In 2007, Diethylene glycol was found in contaminated toothpaste manufactured in China. Over a hundred people died in Panama. That same year The New York Times reported that about 900,000 tubes turned up in the United States, including correctional facilities, juvenile detention centers, and some hospitals, as well as discount stores.

In today’s global economy ingredients can be manufactured anywhere and consumers rely on companies to look out for their safety. Authentication of raw materials is essential to ensure the safety of consumers and mitigate the risks of contamination to the finished product.

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