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— File Photo by AP

LAHORE, Dec 28: With medicines-related tragedies continuing to occur in Punjab, 15 residents of Gujranwala died on Wednesday and Thursday after consuming a cough syrup.

A report sent to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif by Health Secretary Arif Nadeem on Friday said the ‘killer drug’ had been identified as Dextromethorphan cough syrup manufactured and distributed by Lahore-based Ethical Laboratories (Pvt).

It said the deaths resembled those taking place last month. This was the third case involving deaths caused by drugs’ reaction in Punjab this year.

In January, over 150 cardiac patients died when they consumed free medicines provided by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. The provincial government ordered an inquiry into the incident but neither made its report public nor took action against anyone.

A similar incident occurred in November when 19 drug addicts lost their lives after consuming a cough syrup. And an inquiry into the tragedy met the same fate.

In the initial inquiry, Tyno cough syrup, manufactured and distributed by Reko Pharma of Lahore, was held responsible for the deaths that took place in Shahdara area of Lahore.

In the latest report, the health secretary said an excessive dose of active ingredient Dextromethorphan had claimed the lives of 15 people this week and of 19 persons in November.

Both the ‘killer syrups’ contained the ingredient, the report said, and urged the government to focus investigations on the ‘source’ of the ingredient which might have been adulterated or otherwise substandard.

The report said the ingredient was imported from two countries — China and India — to manufacture cough syrups in Punjab and other parts of the country. In his initial findings, the health secretary claimed that the 15 victims were drug addicts.

Compiled on the basis of data collected by the commissioner of Gujranwala and the executive district officer (health) of Lahore, the report said the condition of 34 people deteriorated after they consumed Dextromethorphan cough syrup in Gujranwala. They were rushed to local hospitals from where 10 of them were referred to Mayo Hospital in Lahore.

Thirteen of them died in Gujranwala and two in Lahore. The organs of the three victims had been sent for chemical and pathological analysis after post-mortem of their bodies, it added.

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