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For those like me who have been here for more than a decade, you will remember this serious issue that was on the front pages of the newspapers. I am disappointed but not surprised at the outcome.

 

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Mass poisoning victims protest court whitewash

Posted on August 1, 2016 in Panama

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Protestors at the court
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SURVIVORS and families of victims of the mass poisoning by government supplied cough mixture containing diethylene glycol, protested outside Panama’s  Supreme Court on Monday August 1.

The protest was held against a decision of the court released on Friday that after 10 years of protests,  cleared senior officials of Social Security (CSS) who were in office at the time of the poisoning in 2006.

Antonio Vargas, who represents victims and their families, said the decision will be appealed. He added that once domestic options are exhausted, they will appeal to international authorities.

He said that during a hearing earlier this year evidence was presented that implicated the officials.

Vargas asked: “How can the court justify the acquittal of a few and the condemnation of others?”

He said the case represents a “historic” tragedy that continues to have an impact on a large number of people in the country.

Hundreds of people died and thousands of others were made ill due to cough syrup that was tainted with diethylene glycol. The medicine was distributed by Social Security.

The verdict absolved René Luciani, who served as Social Security Director , and former employees Linda Thomas and Pablo Solis Gonzalez. Also freed was Teófilo Gateno, the legal representative of the company that approved the financing of Medicom, the company that sold the product, and Josefa De La Cruz, the director of Medicom.

The court did sentence Medicom Director Ángel De La Cruz to five years in prison, and also punished three former Social Security employees with 12 month sentences.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/mass-poisoning-victims-protest-court-whitewash

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More than a decade later, a part-measure of justice

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They got their wish, sort of. Dr. Camilo Alleyne’s Ministry of Health did not create the poisonous cough syrup. However, it also failed to rise to the ensuing crisis to protect public health. As would have happened anyway with Panama’s five-year political rotation, he did leave the minister’s post. He’s still a figure in PRD politics but the scandal still taints his reputation. 2006 archive photo by Eric Jackson.

More than a decade later, the high court adjusts sentences for a mass poisoning

by Eric Jackson

An erstwhile corporate executive and four former Seguro Social employees will be going to prison, and several other former public employees, including former social security director René Luciani, also received prison terms, but for less than four years and thus with the time behind bars avoidable by $1 per day fines. The company man got five years and four low-level former government workers got 15 years apiece for changing expiration date labels on what turned out to be toxic lab chemicals. Thus spake the Penal Bench of the Supreme Court, which revoked some lower court acquittals and adjusted some sentences. Appeals might be made to the full court or to the Inter-American Human Rights Court, but most probably the result is final. The ruling comes after nearly 11 years of legal and political wrangling, some of it with partisan, racial or class overtones.

At the time, there was all sorts of misinformation and disinformation swirling about and this reporter was not the only one hoodwinked by some of it. But with the passage of time, a lot of good work by various lawyers and reporters and persistent demands for the truth, we know the basic outlines of what happened, if not such details as a precise death count.

In the summer of 2006, with the Torrijos administration and ACP running a full-blast campaign to win a canal expansion referendum, patients started to die mysterious deaths at or shortly after visiting Seguro Social (CSS) and Ministry of Health facilities. News that this was happening was suppressed for many weeks by a government anxious to avoid any distraction from the state-funded “yes” campaign.

As part of that campaign, the president and first lady were helicoptering around the country to remote village in the indigenous comarcas and other boondocks venues, distributing non-prescription medicines at many of their stops.

People were being poisoned by sugar-free cough syrup, generally recommended for diabetics and also for senior citizens and others trying to lose weight or reduce their sugar intake. Some 20,000 flasks of the syrup — so it is estimated — had been mixed at the Seguro Social medicine lab, where deadly toxic diethylene glycol (DEG) that has been mislabeled as glycerin was mistakenly added.

So how did THAT happen? The New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich followed the trail to China and back and won a Pulitzer Prize for it. In China at the Taixing Glicerin Factory the stuff was labeled “substitute glycerin” — in Chinese. DEG can be used in place of glycerin for certain things, but definitely not for human consumption. It was then marketed as medicinal grade via a Chinese exporter, CNSC Fortune Way. A Spanish wholesaler, Rasfer Internacional, ordered a lot of glycerin and was sent a mix of glycerin and DEG. There is some question about whether labels were changed in China between manufacture and export, but the stuff was sent off and in Spain the labels were changed to say glycerin. Then, in 2003, a Panamanian import company with beneficial ownership still undisclosed pursuant to this country’s corporate secrecy laws, Medicom SA, put in the order to the Spanish wholesaler, thinking to resell to the CSS lab.

In September 2004 the presidency passed from Mireya Moscoso to Martín Torrijos and although it is routinely denied by most players in the Panamanian political system, so did the political patronage pecking order of which companies get government contracts.

Medicom, having again changed the labels to extend the expiration date, sold the mislabeled DEG, in a lot with look-alike containers that actually contained glycerin, to the CSS lab.

Once in the government’s possession, at some point the chemicals were looking older than optimal. Instead of testing them, people at the CSS department of Pharmacy and Drugs switched the labels again to once more falsify the expiration dates.

The DEG was mixed into sugar-free cough syrup and diphenhydramine (the main ingredient in the antihistamine Benadryl and the sleep aid Sominex). Neither the ingredients before mixing nor the medications after mixing were tested, either at the CSS lab or at the University of Panama’s lab that has a statutory mandate to certify all medicines used in the Republic of Panama.

Why no testing? Lawyers have argued back and forth but the record suggests that budget requests for the equipment, reagent chemicals and labor needed to do systematic medicine testing were made and routinely rejected over many years, to the point at which any such request was considered a routine formality that was not to be taken seriously. That then led to triangular finger-pointing among CSS directors, CSS boards and the national government over the funding that never came.

Probably sometime late in 2005 or early in 2006 the DEG started to be mixed into medicines. The first officially noted death from the poison came on August 2 but CSS and Ministry of Health physicians and staff say that the problem was noticed several weeks before that. The medical findings of those affected — no fevers or signs of infection — would have suggested a toxin. But the Torrijos administration suppressed news of the deaths and illnesses as a part of its canal expansion publicity campaign, and people who had not been alerted of any problem continued to get the tainted medicine and die or become ill from it.

People in the CSS and Ministry of Health raised the alarm, at first to limited effect because most of the major media were being paid many millions of dollars by the government both to publish advertising and to slant the news in favor of the “yes” campaign. It wasn’t until late September when word got out in the press, and then there was a big public panic that significantly reduced the numbers of those seeking help from the public health care system. (There is probably a death toll from the panic, of people who should have sought attention but failed to do so due to their fears and died as a result.) The panic, breaking on the eve of the referendum, elicited claims by the government that they did not know, and then a usual show of an underdeveloped country’s helpless posture of calling in the Americans. The US Centers for Disease Control quickly identified the problem.

So how many died? Officially 107, but by any reasonable count in excess of 400. The Torrijos administration delayed the purchase of testing materials until after the positive identification of such cases became possible due to the deterioration of tissue samples and their chemical residues. As a money and political reputation saving ploy, the government then asserted that without a positive test result, a DEG death did not happen.

Deaths out in the comarcas, beyond doctors and where there was no question of any autopsy? Those folks were not counted.

Hell was raised, proofs like medicine flasks with DEG residues were produced and ultimately hundreds of people left ill, some of whom died later but before their actuarial times, were officially accepted to be DEG victims and awarded a measure of special care and compensation.

The question on many minds and lips was “Who is Medicom?” A viral rumor was that its beneficial owner or owners were the offspring of then Housing Minister Balbina Herrera, who went on to be the PRD’s 2009 presidential candidate. When the question was put to her she did not directly answer but berated the reporter for going after he family. We still do not know who owned Medicom. Whether true or false, however, that rumor — and the attitude that it’s acceptable for a political candidate to duck such a question — let to Herrera’s crushing election defeat, from which she has made no significant comeback as a public figure or influential party leader.

The initial finger of blame pointed at lab director Linda Thomas, a black woman, who pleaded that she had no budget to test the chemicals. That went a long way toward breaking up what had been a solid PRD advantage among Afro-Panamanian voters, and later to black public officials elected in 2009 on the PRD ticket switching to Ricardo Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party. After took over the presidency he engineered some specious partisan assignments of blame, having his subservient prosecutors accuse Moscoso-era Seguro Social directors Juan Jované and Rolando Villalaz. For years the case went up and down the penal court system with defendants being added and subtracted, sometimes being added again.

There was never any attempt to investigate the cover-ups, neither between when the poisonings became known and when the public was informed, nor after the problem was generally known but steps were taken to block evidence of its full extent, nor the Martinelli-era attempts at partisan blame shifts.

In China? The director of the State Food and Drug Administration of China, Zheng Xiaoyu, was not charged with a role in the deaths, but was accused of taking bribes to allow the export of the DEG and other chemicals without proper safeguards. He was tried on May 29, 2007, sentenced to death and executed on July 10 of that same year.

 

http://www.thepanamanews.com/

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Ex Social Security director jail bound

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Rene Luciani

THE CRIMINAL Chamber of Panama’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Second Court of Justice and has sentenced the former director of the Social Security Fund (CSS), René Luciani, to 18 months in prison for his responsibility in the case of massive poisoning of patients with a cough syrup mixed with diethylene glycol.

Other implicated in the poisoning, Ignacio Torres Echeverría, Linda Joan Thomas Martín (ex-lab head) and Pablo Narciso Solís González (former director of Pharmacy and Drugs) received the same conviction, as Luciani, considering them as authors in the process.

Teófilo Gateno Hafeitz (director of Medicom, a supplier of diethylene glycol) was sentenced to 5 years in prison for being a primary accomplice.

Chronology
Massive diethylene glycol poisoning occurred in 2006

In 2003, glycerin was purchased from Medicom to produce medicinal products.

Its content was a compound with a considerable percentage of the substance known as diethylene glycol used as anti- freeze windshield washer.

The first death from the compound  recorded on August 2, 2006.

The hearing of the case began, March 21 2016  and ended on April 8, 2016.

All of them had been acquitted by the Second Tribunal on the basis of supposed deficiencies in the processes of purchase of the raw material, its introduction and final analysis.

In the case of Angel Ariel De La Cruz, Edward Enrique Taylor Jurado and Miguel Antonio Algandona De León, the Criminal Chamber sentenced them to 15 years in prison and disqualification to exercise public functions for the same term.

Nereida Isabel Quintero Ortiz de Velasco and Marta Cristell Sánchez Bustamante de Castillo were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and disqualification for the exercise of public functions for the same term.

The immediate detention of the convicted persons was ordered,

Background
In October 2003, the company Medicom S.A. Imported Glycerin Pure USP quality for human consumption, to supply the Social Security Fund. The product was used for the preparation of medicines such as sugar-free expectorant syrup and diphenhydramine among others, by the institution’s Drug Production Laboratory which  in the end proved that its content was not what was  contractually required but a compound with a considerable percentage of diethylene glycol and whose large-scale use generated a massive poisoning of patients and consumers users killing hundreds.  The first recorded death was known on August 2, 2006, and hundreds more were left with lifelong disabilities.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/ex-social-security-director-jail-bound

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State poisoning victims – 11 years on

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ELEVEN years  after being poisoned by  diethyleneglycol  in a cough syrup provided by Panama’s Social Security System (CSS),  surviving victims are still trying to get their voices heard.

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Hundreds died within weeks but a struggling and shrinking band with permanent health effects claim their lives are a constant ordeal. Diethyleneglycol is used as an anti-freeze for car windshields.

At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct 10.  A group gathered at the Presedencia to protest and deliver  petitions.,

They say that despite being left with health complications for life they have received no disability pension say that theyThey must pay for medicines, and special food and cannot work.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/state-poisoning-victims-11-years

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11-year poisoning nightmare continues

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YEARS of protests have failed
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PANAMA’S  Administration Prosecutor is trying to light a fire under four government bodies to take action over the  11 years-old diethylene glycol poisoning scandal that killed hundreds and left hundreds more suffering and in need of care.
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Rigoberto Gonzalez

González sent letters to Miguel Mayo, Minister of Health; Alfredo Martiz, Director of  Social Security (CSS); Humberto Mas, director of the Institute of Legal Medicine and  Forensic Sciences, and Dulcidio De La Guardia, Minister of Economy and Finance.

“I make a formal request  to you to be the auditor and guarantor that, at the time any person who is certified as an affected patient or claims to be affected  and requires the services of the institution under your charge, that they are received and treated with the priority they deserve, in order to ensure respect for their rights, “says Gonzalez in the letters.

The first cases of poisoning in CSS patients were known in September 2006, but there was an early cover-up, and 11 years after the massive casualties from cough syrup contaminated with diethylene glycol, that originated in China, the struggle of the victims in search of justice continues.

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11 YEARS of protests

They have knocked on the doors of the Social Security Fund (CSS), the entity that distributed the poisoned medicines; have gone to the Ministry of Health, and to the Presidency and have held vigils in front of the Supreme Court and government buildings,

Now, they have reached González, whose office has been received, at least 72 complaints from people who claim better care.

The notes to May, Mas and Martiz were sent on January 5, and to De La Guardia on January 10.

It warns them of his concerns about the situation faced by affected patients and specifically for those people who have repeatedly appealed to the  Public Ministry Attorney General to file complaints against different institutions of the State.

Gonzalez adds that in his capacity as prosecutor  attending to his powers to monitor the official conduct of public servants,  he asks them to be supervisors and guarantors of service to the affected and that “they are  treated with the priority they deserve.”

No Reactions
La Prensa contacted the Public Relations departments of the Ministry of Health, the CSS and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, to get reactions to  Gonzalez’s request, but there was no response.

The victims have also approached  National Transparency Authority (Antai). To report the lack of specialists on analysis and case studies in the evaluation committee. Pedro Montañez, a poison victim  said:  “we must also pay attention to the seven medical professionals that make up the commission ” and cited a Ministry of Health resolution, in which two nephrologists and a gastroenterologist of the CSS  were appointed ad honorem in addition, to two specialists of internal medicine and gastroenterology of Hospital Santo Tomás and a lawyer of the MEF, but no  toxicology specialist.

Montanez said a clinical toxicologist, was a fundamental and basic specialty to detect who could have been contaminated by the diethylene glycol.

He said t the specialists with expertise in nephrology, internal medicine and gastroenterology can complement, but not replace the knowledge of a clinical toxicologist reports La Prensa.

Legal moves
On February 1, 50 lawsuits were presented before the Supreme Court on behalf of victims and relatives of people affected by the poison, reports La Prensa.

Each one claims, at least, $6 million from the Panamanian State with the argument that they have not been properly attended.

Among the evidence provided is the ruling of the Criminal Chamber of the Court that sentenced ex-staff members of the CSS and individuals related to the purchase of the raw material with which they made the medicines.

René Luciani, director of the Social Security Fund (CSS) between 2004 and 2009, is being held in El Renacer prison serving a 16-month prison sentence.

the former Director of Pharmacy and Drugs of the Ministry of Health, Pablo Solís, was sentenced to 18 months.

A compliance judge declared the 18-month sentence of Linda Thomas, of the CSS Medicines Laboratory extinguished allowing for time in preventive detention reports La Prensa.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/11-year-poisoning-nightmare-continues

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OPINION: Victims of poisoning and bureaucracy

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The survivors of the massive poisoning with diethylene glycol and the relatives of those who died because of this poisoning still face bureaucratic barriers that seem insurmountable. After this accumulation of injustice, the Administration Attorney General has formally informed the Minister of Health, the Director General of the Social Security Fund, and the Minister of Economy and Finance, that the failure of the State for these Panamanians should be corrected. In recent weeks, criminal justice has shown its weakness and the weakness over those accused of massive poisoning. It is, however, in terms of the services of health, therapies, periodic examinations and compensation, that the Government agencies have failed the responsibility of fulfilling their tasks. Here is the most important lesson of irresponsibility in the management of public services: theconsequences are paid by innocent people. There is no right for so much indifference. Enough already! …LA PRENSA, Feb. 13.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/opinion-victims-poisoning-bureaucracy

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Diethylene Glycol poisoning 15-yr sentence stands

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YEARS of protests by victims
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The Panama Superior Court of Appeals on  Thursday, Mar 1,  upheld the decision of a judge denying conversion of a 15-year jail term to house arrest for Miguel Algandona, ex-assistant of the   Social Security Quality Control Laboratory.

He was sentenced for the massive poisoning after ingestion of Diethylene Glycol, used in cough syrup, which killed hundreds.

the Compliance Judge of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, Hornilda Miranda, had denied the request for the substitution of the penalty on February 21. However, the judge did recognize Algandona’s 206 days in prison, for time served, of the 15 years imposed by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, leaving a penalty of 14 years and 159 days.

At the court hearing, a legal medical evaluation was ordered, which governs impediments to serving his sentence in a penitentiary.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/diethylene-glycol-poisoning-15-yr-sentence-stands

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Diethylene glycol prisoner denied early release

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THE FORMER director of Panama’s  Social Security Fund (CSS),  will stay behind bars until month’s end after  a compliance judge, on Monday April 16   denied his request for house arrest.

René Luciani, was jailed for  the massive case of diethylene glycol poisoning of CSS patients who were prescribed cough syrup containing the chemical used as  anti-freeze.

Hundreds of people died and hundreds  more have life time illnesses brought on by the poisoning

The former official will have to complete his sentencet at the El Renacer Penitentiary until April 30, the Judicial Branch reported.

Luciani was convicted in April 2017, and sentenced to 18 months in jail, later reduced to 16 months.

The company Medicom, S.A. in October 2003, it imported USP quality pure glycerin for human consumption, to supply the Fund   for the manufacture of medicines, such as expectorant syrup without sugar and diphenhydramine, by the CSS  medications production laboratory.  It turned out that its content was not the mixture  contracted, but a compound  containing  diethylene glycol that originated in hina and reached Panama via Spain.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/diethylene-glycol-prisoner-denied-early-release

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One hundred new lawsuits against the Panamanian State for massive poisoning

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 19:32

A hundred people sued the Panamanian state today for medical malpractice in the massive poisoning that took place more than a decade ago in Panama, caused by toxic syrup distributed by the country’s social insurance.

The 102 lawsuits were presented this Wednesday before the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama by lawyer Víctor Orobio, who last February filed another hundred complaints in the same case, in which a compensation of 6 million dollars is requested for each victim.

“The good news for all those poisoned is that the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) has admitted dozens of lawsuits that in the next few days will be sent to the Attorney General’s Office, which is the institution that in the first instance can pronounce itself. This is excellent news,” acknowledged the lawyer in statements to journalists.

The poisoning, which was produced by a syrup with diethylene glycol, a highly poisonous substance that is used as an industrial refrigerant, was news around the world and is considered one of the most serious health accidents in the history of Panama.

The case took an unexpected turn last April when the CSJ revoked the acquittal of five people, including the former director of the state Social Security Fund (CSS) René Luciani, and sentenced them to 18 months in jail.

In the original ruling, which was issued in July 2016 and later invalidated by the highest court, only five of the nearly 30 accused were convicted, which caused great disappointment among the victims.

The story goes all the way back to 2003, when the CSS bought about 9,000 kilos of supposed pure glycerin from the Panamanian company Medicom, which in turn acquired the merchandise from the Spanish pharmaceutical company Rasfer Internacional S.A., which brought it from China.

With that supposed pure glycerin, the social security elaborated syrup for the flu that turned out not to be apt for the human consumption.

The health authorities distributed more than 200,000 bottles of “death syrup” throughout the country, but it was not until 2006 that the first cases of poisoning began to be identified.

According to the victims committee, so far nearly 800 deaths have been recognized and more than 1,300 affected, among which there are more than 250 children. ACAN-EFE

 

http://www.panamatoday.com/panama/one-hundred-new-lawsuits-against-panamanian-state-massive-poisoning-6622

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Former director of social security is released from prison after conviction for the case diethylene glycol

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 14:19

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The former director of the Panamanian social security René Luciani was released from jail today after serving an 18-month sentence for a case of massive poisoning that occurred more than a decade ago in Panama.

"The enforcement judge of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, Roberto Sánchez, declared the main punishment of 18 months of imprisonment imposed against the former director of the Social Security Fund, René Esteban Luciani Lasso, as the perpetrator of the crime against public health," the Judicial Body said in a statement.

Luciani was sentenced in April last year by the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama to 18 months in prison for his responsibility as former director of Panamanian social security in the distribution more than a decade ago of a syrup contaminated with diethyleneglycol, a highly poisonous substance which is used as an industrial refrigerant.

The Judicial Body explained that the former official was less than 18 months in prison because in the calculation of the sentence was also included "the precautionary measure of prohibition to leave the country (393 days), as well as the within-the-walls work performed in the prison (9 days) and 4 days that he was kept under arrest during the course of the investigation".

"Once the main penalty was served, the Enforcement Judge declared the accessory penalty of disqualification for the exercise of public functions initiated for the term of 18 months, which will take effect from May 1, until November 1, 2019," the statement added.

On January 31, a Panamanian court rejected the conditional suspension of the sentence requested by the defense of the former official.

The poisoning went around the world and is considered one of the most serious health accidents in the history of Panama.

In recent months, more than two hundred people have sued the Panamanian State for alleged medical malpractice.

The case took an unexpected turn in April last year when the Supreme Court of Justice revoked the acquittal of five people, including Luciani, and sentenced them to 18 months in jail.

In the original sentence, which was issued in July 2016 by a court and later invalidated by the highest court, only five of the nearly 30 defendants were convicted, which caused great disappointment among the victims.

The story goes back to 2003, when the Social Security Fund bought about 9,000 kilos of alleged pure glycerin from the Panamanian company Medicom, which in turn acquired the merchandise from the Spanish pharmaceutical company Rasfer Internacional S.A., which brought it from China.

With that supposed pure glycerin, the Social Security prepared a syrup for the flu, which turned out not to be apt for human consumption.

The health authorities distributed more than 200,000 bottles of "syrup of death" throughout the country, but it was not until 2006 that the first cases of poisoning began to be identified.

According to the committee of victims, so far nearly 800 deaths and more than 1,300 affected have been recognized, among which there are more than 250 children. (With information from EFE)

 

http://www.panamatoday.com/panama/former-director-social-security-released-prison-after-conviction-case-diethylene-glycol-6755

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Panamanian Supreme Court will review former servicewoman's conviction for massive poisoning

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:19

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The Panamanian Supreme Court will hold a hearing on May 29 to review the sentence of 12 months in prison against the former social security purchasing official for a case of massive poisoning that occurred more than a decade ago in Panama.

The Judicial Branch explained in a statement that the hearing will take place in the Second Criminal Chamber of the highest court at 14.00 local time (19.00 GMT) and will be held at the request of the defense of the former Supply Director of the Social Security Fund (CSS), Martha Cristelly Sánchez.

Sanchez was convicted in the first instance in July 2016 for a crime against public health to 12 months in prison and disqualification for her responsibility as former head of purchases of the Panamanian social security in the distribution more than a decade ago of a syrup contaminated with diethylene glycol, a highly poisonous substance that is used as an industrial refrigerant.

The penalty against the former staff was ratified in April last year by the Second Criminal Chamber, the same statement said.

The poisoning went around the world and is considered one of the most serious health accidents in the history of Panama.

In recent months, more than two hundred people have sued the Panamanian State for alleged medical malpractice.

The case took an unexpected turn in April last year when the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) revoked the acquittal of five people, including the former director of social insurance Rene Luciani, and sentenced them to 18 months in jail.

In the original sentence, which was issued in July 2016 by a court and later invalidated by the highest court, only five of the nearly 30 defendants were convicted, which caused great disappointment among the victims.

The story goes back to 2003, when the CSS bought about 9,000 kilos of alleged pure glycerin from the Panamanian company Medicom, which in turn acquired the merchandise from the Spanish pharmaceutical company Rasfer Internacional S.A., which brought it from China.

With that supposed pure glycerin, Social Security elaborated a syrup for the flu, which turned out not to be apt for human consumption.

The health authorities distributed more than 200,000 bottles of "death syrup" throughout the country, but it was not until 2006 that the first cases of poisoning began to be identified.

According to the committee of victims, so far nearly 800 deaths and more than 1,300 affected, among which there are more than 250 children, have been recognized.

 

http://www.panamatoday.com/panama/panamanian-supreme-court-will-review-former-servicewomans-conviction-massive-poisoning-6853

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12 years on Panama mass  poisoning victims still await justice

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PATIENT S affected by diethylene glycol filed over 400 lawsuits against the state in the Panama Supreme Court on Wednesday, Aug, 29  in search of a solution to the problem they have been facing for 12 years.

Some 800 patients have died and 1,300  more were afflicted for life when they were provided with cough syrup containing the chemical used in windshield washer.

Gabriel Pascual, president of the Committee of Relatives and Victims of the Right to Health and Life (Cofadesavi) announced that the new demands exceed the $5.2 million, alleging that justice is sought so that the state compensates those affected.

“We are going to go out to the street as many times as necessary. We have been living this way for 12 years now, we expect too much, we need a state policy on health ”said Pascual.

Those affected by the massive poisoning of the Social Security Fund (SSC) in the central province point out that it is very difficult to move to the capital because of their suffering.

Pascual requests that medicines, supplies from laboratories and medical equipment be guaranteed so that the affected population can have a better quality of life, because of this failure by the CSS.

There are more than 417 lawsuits filed in the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, filed by those affected by the toxic syrup,  with  365 claims are pending.

The demands are individual and not collective because each victim has a different background and history.

The demands exceed $ 2.5 billion.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/12-years-on-mass-poisoning-victims-panama-still-await-justice

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More 400 deadly toxic victims file millionaire lawsuit against Panama

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 17:05

A group of people recently sued the Panamanian state for a case of mass poisoning, which occurred more than a decade ago in Panama for a syrup that was distributed by the country's social security, to seek a compensation of up to 200 million dollars.

"After 12 years of this ordeal, we filed before the Supreme Court of Justice more than 400 lawsuits against the State, with a value of 180 to 200 million dollars as compensation to the victims," the president of the Committee of Relatives of the Victims and Survivors for the Right to Health and Life, Gabriel Pascual, told Efe .

See more here - https://www.panamatoday.com/special-report/diethylene-glycol-death-syrup-case-about-expire-6495

In the midst of a demonstration in the Supreme Court, Pascual said the package of lawsuits is only the first filed by a first group of affected people, and that they will file others after they have more scientific evidence and data.

"We ask for justice, although this will not solve our health problems or return the lives of those who died, it is a compensation that the State must give from the moral point of view," he said.

He also said there is a four-year moratorium on reviewing the pension law for survivors - who currently charge around $ 600 a month - for an increase of 900 to 1,000 dollars. So far about 1,200 people have this benefit.

Meanwhile, the lawyer of the poison victims Francisco Carreira told journalists that since 2006, these people have received poor medical treatment, and today there are patients who are at risk, and that is part of what is claimed to the State.

"This is a millionaire lawsuit against the State and the Social Security Fund, demanding a compensation for the damages and losses caused to all these people," he said.

One of them is Julissa Berguido, who while holding a painting of her mother who died from the aftermath of diethylene glycol, told Efe that the process has been very difficult for her family, and they have had to suffer poor attention for being only victims.

Added to it, her daughter Liz Vázquez, 25, is also one of the survivors that fights for the case, despite suffering from various conditions such as multiple autoautonomy due to the poison.

Another victim is Gloria de Coronado, who since 2006 was affected by the toxic, and so far remains pending that the case advances despite the fact that justice has not supported those who have suffered the aftermath.

"I live a death sentence and all because of drinking a syrup with diethylene glycol, despite this, this claim is historic, and it has not been easy, we have been almost 13 years and there are still people who have not been reported," she said.

Now Coronado will have to wait for the claim to be admissible with a number of symptoms she is suffering from such as diabetes, colon problems, and neck and back pain.

The Social Security Fund bought in a process initiated in 2003 about 9,000 kilos of a substance reported as pure glycerin, with which it developed a syrup and paste for the skin, which turned out to be of use for industrial refrigerant and not for human consumption, since it had the poisonous substance diethylene glycol.

The health authorities distributed more than 200,000 bottles of these "syrupy poison" throughout the country, but it was not until 2006 that the first cases of poisoning began to be identified.

In April of this year, the Supreme Court revoked the acquittal of five people, including the former director of the state Social Security Fund, René Luciani, and sentenced them to 18 months in jail.

In the original verdict, which was issued in July 2016 and later overrode by the highest court, only five of the nearly 30 accused were convicted, which caused great disappointment among the victims.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/panama/more-400-deadly-toxic-victims-file-millionaire-lawsuit-against-panama-7735

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Cough syrup victims challenge authorities to take the medicine

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Patients in Panama who ingested cough syrup containing diethylene glycol and issued by the Social Security System (CSS) have spent 11 years fighting for compensation.   Now they have issued a  challenge (#DietilenglicolChallenge ) to  Supreme Court judges and health authorities to take the same number of bottles of poisoned syrup and only then would they desist from the lawsuit in which they demand the payment of their respective compensations, after being affected for life.
 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/cough-syrup-victims-challenge-authorities-to-take-the-medicine

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Lawsuits for massive poisoning in Panama exceed $ 3,360 million

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 17:52

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The Panamanian State faces lawsuits for more than 3,360 million dollars made by hundreds of victims of a massive poisoning with a syrup distributed more than a decade ago by the Social Security Fund (CSS), the Administration’s Attorney General, Rigoberto González, informed today.

The lawyer of the Panamanian State explained on Wednesday that the Third Chamber of Contentious Administrative of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) has accepted to process 475 lawsuits filed by victims of the so-called "death syrup", and that these add up to "more than 3.363 millions of dollars".

In total, 495 lawsuits have been filed, of which two dozen were rejected, said the prosecutor, who stressed that his role is "defending the interests of the State, in this case the CSS."

The amount of admitted causes represents about half of the annual CSS budget, and the Attorney General will focus on "mitigating as much as possible the amount that is being sued for" if the cases reach the testing phase, the official said during an interview with the local television Telemetro.

"The role that the Government’s Administration Office is assuming does not mean that we have a position against (the rights of those affected) in the matter of special attention" that they deserve, González said.

The Panamanian state has so far recognized around 1,440 victims, of whom 854 are survivors, and the rest have died, according to data from a committee of affected people led by Gabriel Pascual.

"In 2018 20 humble Panamanians have died because of the syrup (...) these people have died without seeing the justice we expected," Pascual told EFE on October 17 as part of a mass in the Panamanian capital to remember the 12 years of mass poisoning.

In 2003, the CSS bought about 9,000 kilos of alleged glycerin, with which it produced a syrup for influenza, which turned out not to be suitable for human consumption, of which more than 200,000 bottles were distributed throughout the country and in 2006 they began to identify the first poisoning cases

Several former Social Security officials have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison for this case.

The Panamanian government created a high-level commission last July to guarantee, "medical, hospital, social and economc care" for those affected by diethylene glycol, Pascual said to EFE a the time.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/panama/lawsuits-massive-poisoning-panama-exceed-3360-million-8530

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Panama mass poisoning victims get pension raise

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The fatal syrup
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Panama’s cabinet has approved a bill giving an increase of a $200 monthly in the pension of survivors of the mass poisoning of hundreds of people from government-issued medicine.

The increase goes to a decreasing number of those affected by the cough mixture containing diethylene glycol distributed by the Social Security System (CSS) 12 years ago. Over 800. people out of 8000 affected, mostly from humble backgrounds have died, including 20 this year

Hundreds of others suffer from ongoing residual health problems.

The bill – will be presented to the National Assembly in January by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said Vice Minister, Gustavo Valderrama.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/panama-mass-poisoning-victims-get-pension-raise

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Panama poisoning victims get $200 pension boost

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Victims have been fighting for justice for nearly12 years

Posted 06/02/2019
 
Survivors of Panama ’s biggest poisoning scandal who consumed cough mixture containing diethylene glycol from the Social Security Fund (CSS) almost 12 years ago.  will be getting a $200 increase to the  $800 a month pension. Hundreds died

The increase was approved by the National Assembly Labor, Health and Development Committee and will be reviewed every two years.

Among other aspects of the benefit, reports La Prensa the widower, spouse or partner will be entitled to receive 100% of the pension. Children under 18 years of age or 25 years old, who have completed university studies or disabled children while the disability persists, in which case they will be entitled to receive 50% of the pension. The other 50% will go correspond to the widower, spouse or partner. The percentage that corresponds to the children will be distributed proportionally among them. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama-poisoning-victims-get-200-pension-boost

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State poisoning survivors get annuity increase Health

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Poisoning survivors

Posted 22/02/2019

Some 1069 survivors of the massive poisoning of Social Security patients, almost 12 years ago with a cough mixture containing diethylene glycol, will see their compensation annuity climb $200 to $800 following the approval by the National Assembly in the third debate of Bill 721. Diethylene glycol is used in windshield washer fluid. The poisoning led to scores of deaths.

Gabriel Pascual, of the Committee of Relatives for the Right to Health and Life, expressed his satisfaction for the approval in the Legislative.  

The leader said that another 500 affected are waiting for the certification of the inter-institutional commission in order to enjoy the support. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/health/state-poisoning-survivors-get-annuity-increase-health

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Remembering Panama's posoning victims

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Victims display containers that held the poisoned syrup

Posted 05/06/2019

Hundreds of people participated in a memorial  service  in Panama City  on Tuesday, June 4 to commemorate the over 800  who have died  in the last 12 years from   the most deadly mass poisoning in the  country’s history,

They all died after taking a toxic cough syrup containing diethylene glycol distributed by the social security service (CSS).

Over 800 people died prior to 2018 and another 20 so far this year, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“These people have died without seeing the justice that we expected, " Gabriel Pascual told the Efe.News Agency

Pascual,   chairman of the Committee of Relatives of Victims and Survivors for the Right to Health and Life, said that the first victims met in October 2006, when the first poisonings were detected. and “that date “marks a milestone in the life of thousands of Panamanians.”

A total of 8,000 are estimated to be affected. with hypertension, diabetes and kidney failure, forcing them to which is why they consume multiple medications.

The intoxication was more evident in adult patients between 40 and 80 years.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/health/remembering-panamas-posoning-victims

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Murió Eduardo Arias, el panameño que alertó al mundo de una intoxicación a través de pastas de dientes

Ohigginis Arcia Jaramillo
01 ago 2020 - 01:55 PM

https://www.prensa.com/sociedad/murio-eduardo-arias-el-panameno-que-alerto-al-mundo-de-una-intoxicacion-a-traves-de-pastas-de-dientes/

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Panama’s shameful poisoning legacy

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Survivors protesting at the Supreme Court 3 years ago. They are still waiting !

Posted 09/10/2021

Hundreds of people continue o suffer the consequences of having ingested medicines produced by the Social Security Fund contaminated with diethylene glycol. This has been one of the worst medical tragedies in the world,  - for the number of people poisoned and for the number who have died - it has been much worse than the one suffered by about a hundred people in the United States in 1938, triggering the creation of the Federal Law of Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics of that country.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of this catastrophe, which has left a deep trace of pain, at the same time it has become an embarrassment for our public health system, which has treated victims of the poisoning with very little empathy. Patients have had to fight tooth and nail every little conquest to receive treatment or compensation from the state. The authorities have forgotten that they owe a debt to all those affected, but with each passing year, the 2006 scandal is buried under the weight of inhuman indifference and carelessness and by government shamelessness, incapable of assuming its responsibility in this done. Is this our solidarity Panama? – LA PRENSA Oct. 9.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/panamas-shameful-poisoning-legacy

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Diethylene glycol victims block highway demand to see president

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Posted 22/10/2021

Patients affected by government distributed syrup poisoned with diethylene glycol, from the provinces of Panama, Colón, Coclé, Herrera, and Los Santos, closed the Inter-American Highway at Divisa on Friday, October 22, to claim the certifications of those who were affected by the substance. Similarly, to demand the presence of President, Laurentino Cortizo.

The protesters blocked the four sections of the road, causing a huge traffic jam.

Briceida de Trejos president of the Committee of Relatives and Victims for the Right to Health and Life (Cofadesavi), chapter of Los Santos, assured that they will wait as long as necessary for President Cortizo, in order to attend to their requests "If we have to stay here until dawn then we are going to dawn," he said.

He said that the government has given them many promises but "they have not been kept." "We are told that in a month or two everything would be ready [the certifications] and it was a lie," he lamented.

De Trejos recalled that these patients have waited 15 long years and to date, they have not been certified. He indicated that at the national level about 1,200 people are waiting for this certification, of which only 215 people are part of Cofadesavi.

The patients recalled that until they are certified, they will not receive the life pension to which they are entitled. "Medicines are very expensive, we do not have the money to buy them," they added.
 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/diethylene-glycol-victims-block-highway-demand-to-see-president

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Government poisoned patients block highway

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Posted 15/03/2022

Government poisoned patients block highway

IVISA, Herrera. - Patients from across Panama affected by the syrup poisoned with diethylene glycol distributed by the Social Security System (CSS) took over the four lanes of the Inter-American highway in Divisa at  6.30, am on  Tuesday, March 15, in to demand the delivery of certifications and medicines, and an increase in pensions.

María Elena Pascual Rodríguez, chapter president of the province of Coclé, said that the protest is due to "broken promises" by the Government since there have been "15 years of pain and suffering."

Pascual Rodríguez said that although it is true there are some people who do not comply with the provisions of the law, there have also been other cases where "they have not even reviewed their medical records."

 "Many of those declared negative, in their clinical history are prescriptions and tests that indicate that they are poisoned patients," he said.

For her part, the Minister of Health in charge, Ivette Berrío, affirmed that "the Government has kept the channels of attention and dialogue open with the Panamanians affected by the syrup with diethylene glycol."

“We have not stopped making the evaluations; The Evaluation Commission has specialized medical teams who collect all the information and then make the evaluations, ” she added.

Berrío said that since last week the leaders of those affected were invited to attend a meeting on Monday, at the Presidency, but they did not respond to the call.

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/government-poisoned-patients-block-highway

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Justice delayed 15 years is not justice

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Posted 29/05/202

A saying that is repeated very frequently in Panama is that delayed justice is not justice. And that is what the patients of the Social Security Fund (CSS) poisoned with diethylene glycol receive from our Judicial Branch. For more than fifteen years, patients have been waiting for them to pay the corresponding compensation for the negligence incurred by officials of this entity in the manufacture of medicines for use by the insured. The worst thing is that not everyone will enjoy the desired justice they demand, because in these fifteen years, after serious poisoning, dozens of patients lost their lives without having seen an ounce of solidarity or a penny of compensation. It is the hypocrisy of our authorities, who claim that they do care about the fate of poisoned people when their actions say the opposite. It causes pain and shame that justice is not diligent and the CSS does not assume once and for all its responsibility for the damage caused by its medicines to hundreds of people who trusted in the quality of their medicines, when what they received was a withering poison that ruined their lives. Enough of excuses and face your responsibility! – LA PRENSA May 29.

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/justice-delayed-15-years-is-not-justice

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