At least 16 people, mostly drug addicts seeking a fix, have died after drinking toxic cough syrup in Gujranwala, officials said Saturday.
The deaths started occurring Wednesday in the industrial city, some 70 kilometres north of Lahore, with most of the victims drug addicts who took the syrup for intoxication, police and doctors said.
“We have received 54 patients at hospital who said their condition deteriorated after taking cough syrups and 16 of them have died,” local hospital chief doctor Anwar Aman told AFP.
The victims were between 20 to 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.
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.
At least 19 people, also said to be drug addicts, were killed in November in Lahore after consuming a cough syrup.
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 in the cough syrups had caused the death in the incidents this week and in November.