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Saturday, November 01 2014 @ 05:34 AM EDT

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Alert! Three People Drop Dead in Sabanitas / Colon

HealthcareI just caught this one off of the morning news. Over the weekend three men literally dropped dead where they were standing for unknown reasons. One was checking out of the Rey supermarket in Sabanitas (the road that departs from the Transistmica highway and leads to Portobelo) when he just fell to the floor and died. Another two men were driving in their cars when they apparently just fell over suddenly dead. One was driving in a company car, working, and another was in a private vehicle. Apparently thieves took advantage of the situation and stole the valuables of one of the victims after he died. All of the deaths have taken place in the area of Sabanitas, close to Colon. At this point authorities have done little more than scoop up the bodies and so far I have not heard a reason for the deaths. Anyway, something is going on so heads-up.
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Panama warns of poison from PRC in toothpastes

Healthcare AP, PANAMA CITY - Health authorities ordered two types of toothpaste pulled from shelves for fear they contain a chemical that killed at least 51 people in the Central American country last year. Panama Health Minister Camilo Alleyne said on Friday that the toothpastes were being pulled from shelves nationwide and the government issued a warning to the public against using the brands "Excel" and "Mr Cool," whose labels said that they contained the chemical diethylene glycol. Company officials could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. Authorities were conducting lab tests to confirm whether the products, which officials said were contraband because they were not registered, contained the chemical and expected to have results by the weekend, Alleyne said. The Health Ministry's pharmacy director, Eric Conte, said that the government also temporarily closed a major pharmacy in the center of Panama City that sold the toothpastes. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said this week that an investigation into the source of the deadly medicine found that the Chinese company that sold it was authorized to sell only chemicals for industrial use. (more)
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Poor monitoring and thirst for profit behind 100 poison deaths in Panama

Healthcare Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – One hundred deaths in Panama coming from a Chinese cough syrup – this is the most tragic, recent result of a deadly serious lack of checks in China to ensure food and drugs safety. Poor controls, pollution and widespread forgeries are at the root of this state of affairs. In Panama, there have been more than 100 official deaths (more than 365 according to other sources) and hundreds of poisoning cases because a cough medicine, used especially for children, included a Chinese product identified as glycerin, a common ingredient in medicine. However, in reality, it contained a poisonous industrial antifreeze, diethylene glycol. Now, Jiang Yu, spokesman for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said that neither the chemical company that made the toxic syrup, the Taixing Glycerine Factory, nor the state-owned firm that exported it, CNSC Fortune Way, had a licencse to produce and handle drugs. Hence, he concluded, they did not fall under the regulatory supervision of China’s drug administration. (more)
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FDA warns drugmakers of tainted additive

Healthcare By Sue Mueller for foodconsumer.org - The Food and Drug Administration on May 4 issued an advisory to warn drugmakers, suppliers and health professionals that a counterfeit additive may be illegally used to replace or contaminate more expensive glycerin, a sweet syrup used in over-the-counter medicine like cough medications, fever medication and injectable drugs. The FDA suggests, but not requires that drug manufacturers test glycerin for possible contamination of diethylene glycol or DEG, a known poison that is used in antifreeze and as a solvent. No evidence indicates that glycerin used in the US has been tainted with the poisonous industrial solvent, the FDA says. But caution needs to be excised to ensure glycerin used in the country is free of DEG. The warning was issued as cases of death associated with use of tainted glycerin have been reported to the FDA since last October. Panama has recently confirmed 100 deaths from the DEG contamination and another 200 are waiting to be confirmed. (more)
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From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

Healthcare By WALT BOGDANICH AND JAKE HOOKER for the New York Times - The kidneys fail first. Then the central nervous system begins to misfire. Paralysis spreads, making breathing difficult, then often impossible without assistance. In the end, most victims die. Many of them are children, poisoned at the hands of their unsuspecting parents. The syrupy poison, diethylene glycol, is an indispensable part of the modern world, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze. It is also a killer. And the deaths, if not intentional, are often no accident. Over the years, the poison has been loaded into all varieties of medicine — cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs — a result of counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products. Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs. (more)
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FDA Explains How Diethylene Glycol Entered The Supply Chain in Panama

Healthcare According to the FDA, this is what happened in Panama:
  • The pharmaceutical manufacturers of the syrups that contained contaminated glycerin did not perform full identity testing on the glycerin raw material, including tests to quantify the amount of DEG present and to verify the purity of the glycerin received.

  • The pharmaceutical manufacturers of the syrups containing contaminated glycerin relied on the certificate of analysis (COA) provided by the supplier.

  • The origin of the glycerin was not easily apparent from the COA. The COA obtained by the pharmaceutical manufacturers of the syrups was often a copy of a COA on the letterhead of the distributor and not the COA provided by the manufacturer of the glycerin. The chain of custody or distribution history of the glycerin was also not readily known because the glycerin may have been sold several times between its manufacture and its use in medicinal syrup or other drug product.

As a result of these practices, DEG-contaminated glycerin entered the pharmaceutical raw material supply chain. (more)

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FDA Advises Manufacturers to Test Glycerin for Possible Contamination

Healthcare Glycerin Contaminated with Diethylene Glycol (DEG) Remains a Potential Health Hazard to Consumers - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning pharmaceutical manufacturers, suppliers, drug repackers, and health professionals who compound medications to be especially vigilant in assuring that glycerin, a sweetener commonly used worldwide in liquid over-the-counter and prescription drug products, is not contaminated with diethylene glycol (DEG). DEG is a known poison used in antifreeze and as a solvent. Today, the agency is issuing guidance to industry recommending methods of testing glycerin and other controls to identify any contamination with DEG before use in the manufacture or preparation of pharmaceutical products. At the present time, FDA has no reason to believe that the U.S. supply of glycerin is contaminated with DEG, though the agency is cognizant of reports from other countries over the past several years in which DEG-contaminated glycerin has caused human deaths. FDA is emphasizing the importance of testing glycerin for DEG due to the serious nature of this potentially fatal problem in combination with the global nature of the pharmaceutical supply chain and problems that continue to occur with this kind of contamination in some parts of the global supply of glycerin.
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Diethylene Glycol Claims Another Victim in Panama

Healthcare By Elizabeth González A. for the Panama America - Diethylene glycol has claimed another life in Panama. Mrs. Ana Brown, 66 years-old, died Sunday night in the Social Security hospital. She suffered from high blood pressure and was diabetic, and is on the official list of those effected by the mass poisoning. Three weeks ago her son Rogelio Blades told Panama America that during the most recent visit of doctors from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from the United States (included) his mother. With this most recent death, and considering that Panama's Health Minister Camilo Alleyne traveled to the CDC, the Panama America asked him about the state of health of the survivors. He only said that the CDC is preparing a report.
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Lawsuit Charges Spanish Company Rasfer International With Irregularities

Healthcare By Rafael Luna Noguera for La Prensa - Lawyers in Panama, Spain and the United States have discovered a series of apparent irregularities related to the business transaction made by the Spanish company Rasfer International in the sale of glycerin to Panama that turned out to be diethylene glycol, the poison that has caused the death of at least 100 people. The supposed crimes, contained in a lawsuit filed last week before the Spanish General Prosecutor, range from not disclosing a change in providers to obscure price fluctuations, which appear to be violations of regulations which apply to the commercial sale of products destined for human consumption. Rasfer charged $16,751 for the shipment.
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Almost 1,000 Cases of Dengue Reported in Panama

Healthcare Panama, Apr 26 (Prensa Latina) Almost 1,000 cases of dengue fever and two hemorrhagic cases were reported in the course of this year in Panama, despite campaigns for cleaning and prevention fostered by local sanitary authorities, said official sources here Friday. The Panamanian Public Health Ministry (MINSA) said the most affected regions are Panama City (528 cases) and San Miguelito (120). Later there are Cocle (102), Colon (61) and Chiriqui (45). Sanitary authorities are worried because of the beginning of the rain season in the nation, which allows a greater propagation of mosquito Aedes Aegypti, dengue fever transmitter. The Panamanian Public Health Ministry said that the island of Taboga, a place for fun and recreation, presented an infestation index of 21.4 percent, three times over normal. This institution started a national campaign at the beginning of this year, including fumigation and picking of garbage to fight the disease, incorporation of the civil society to the sanitary measures, participation of communication media to prevent the population and others. Official data said that more than 3,000 people were reported in Panama last year with classic dengue fever, and seven with hemorrhagic dengue fever, of whom one of them finally died.
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