San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Panama to Compensate Victims of Bad Medicine

PANAMA CITY – Panama’s President announced this week that his government will pay compensation to those made ill by state-made contaminated medicines and to the families of the 41 people who died after taking them.

President Martin Torrijos made the announcement after he and Health Minister Camilo Alleyne met Nov. 9 with family members of those who died after taking the cough medicines, or using the skin lotions that had been tainted with an industrial alcohol used in radiator coolant.

The substance, dietileneglycol, prompted kidney failure in most of the fatalities. Some 50 others were made very ill by the remedies. Twenty-eight people remain hospitalized.

“The state has a moral obligation to each and every one of the victims and will find a mechanism to provide them with compensation for the losses they have suffered,” Torrijos said, without mentioning figures.

He said payment of damages by the state does not depend on the victims dropping lawsuits filed on their behalf in connection with the illness. To the contrary, a communiqué issued by the President’s Office noted that they have every right to do so, and promised official legal advice to help them pursue their cases.

The medicines were manufactured by the Panamanian Social Security pharmaceutical laboratory, which was closed after the thenmysterious ailment showed up last month (NT, Oct. 13).

It was determined that the syrups and lotions were made with contaminated glycerin imported from Spain by a Panamanian company. The Spanish exporter reportedly acquired the product from a manufacturer in China.

Two Panamanian executives of the importing company have been charged in the case. Panamanian authorities have asked Madrid for help in pursuing the Spanish and Chinese connections.


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