At least 16 people have died in Pakistan after taking toxic cough syrup. This number has been increased from a previous death toll of 13. All of the deaths occurred between Friday and Sunday.
Local police chief Atif Zulfiqar said that the majority of the deaths occurred in Shahdra Town, a low-income neighborhood in the country's second largest city, Lahore. He also said that most of the deaths stemmed from drug addicts who were using the syrup to get high, which he says is a common occurrence for the over-the-counter drug.
This theory - that most of the deaths were linked to drug addiction - stems from the location of several of the recovered bodies. "Some of the victims were found dead in a graveyard where addicts used to take different kinds of drugs," Zulfigar said to AFP. Seven other people died in an area hospital.
In response to the health crisis, the police have arrested the owners of three local pharmacies that distributed the product. They have also shut down the pharmacies. Inspectors have shut down the factory that manufactures the syrup and sent the product to a laboratory for analysis.
The chief minister of the province ordered a report sent to him within 72 hours.
Khawaja Salman Rafiq, the health adviser for the Punjab province of Pakistan, told reporters that all remaining bottles of cough syrup would be confiscated from pharmacy shelves.
So far, Lahore's Mayo Hospital has reported treating 20 victims aged between 15 and 45. Doctor Tahil Khalil said that most of the patients had histories of drug addiction. In addition to the seven deaths, six people have recovered and been discharged and seven others are still recovering in the hospital.
Doctors say that people may have added something to their syrup in an effort to increase their high.
This health scandal is the second drug-related one in less than a year for the city of Lahore. In January, about 100 patients died after taking contaminated heart medicine produced locally.
While reports say that the syrup was not past their expiration date, the sale of faulty and expired health products is evidently a common problem in Pakistan.