Antibiotics tainted with a chemical used in rat poison may have caused the death of 13 women at a government sterilization camp in Chhattisgarh this week, officials suggested Friday after preliminary testing of the drugs.
An analysis of the antibiotic tablet Ciprofloxacin 500 revealed the medicine was adulterated with zinc phosphide, a chemical used in rat poison.
The drug had been seized from Raipur-based pharmaceutical company Mahawar Pharma on Thursday and has been sent for further tests.
Officials said a significant quantity of burnt medicines was found on the premises.
The symptoms shown by the women who became unwell after undergoing botched sterilizations is similar to how the body reacts to zinc phosphide, doctors in Bilaspur said.
After the surgery, the women had complained of nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The 13 died of cardiac arrest, kidney failure and respiratory breakdown. “Such a chemical results in high mortality,” health officials stated.
“We have conducted raids across the state and seized over 43 lakh similar tablets prepared by Mahawar Pharma,” Bilaspur commissioner Sonmoni Borah told HT.
Mahawar Pharma director Ramesh Mahawar and his son Sumit were arrested by Raipur police on Friday.
“Prima facie, there is strong suspicion of zinc phosphide adulteration in the antibiotic. But it can be confirmed only after we get final reports from the national drug laboratories in Kolkata and Delhi where the sample has been sent,” said state health principal secretary Dr Alok Shukla told HT. The final report of the laboratory tests are likely to reach by Sunday.
This is the first time the toxin has been traced in preliminary findings. “The initial tests were done at Bilaspur science college. We were surprised though it is just the first impression of zinc phosphide in the tablet,” said Borah.