Polychem Syrup Trial: 1 year jail after 2 decades | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:43 AM, February 08, 2019

Polychem Syrup Trial: 1 year jail after 2 decades

♦ 5 companies, including Polychem, were sued for causing death of 2,700 children from 1982 to 1992.   

♦ The kids died from renal failure after taking paracetamol syrup for fever.

♦ Case filed --19 December,1992

♦ Charge framing, case stayed 

♦ -- December 1994

♦ Case resumed -- 2011

A Dhaka court yesterday jailed an official of Polychem Laboratories Limited for a year for producing toxic paracetamol syrup and acquitted its three other employees following a prolonged legal battle that went on for 26 years.

The Dhaka Drug Court found Abdur Rob, director of the now-defunct company, guilty of manufacturing adulterated and sub-standard paracetamol syrup that caused death of 92 children in 1992.

The Directorate General of Drug Administration filed five cases against Polychem and four other pharmaceutical companies between December 1992 and January 1993 after poisonous diethylene glycol was found in paracetamol syrup produced by them.

From 1982 to 1992, as many as 2,700 children died from renal failure after taking paracetamol syrup manufactured by these companies.

As per the Drug Control Ordinance 1982 under which the cases were filed, one can be sentenced up to 10 years in jail for producing and marketing toxic paracetamol syrup.  

Yesterday, Judge Syed Kamal Hossain of the drug court also fined 65-year-old Rob Tk 50,000, in default of which he will have to spend three more months in jail.

Three other accused -- Polychem's manager ASM Golam Qader, and pharmacists Mahbubul Alam and Delwar Hossain -- were acquitted in the case as the allegations against them were not proved, according to the verdict.

All the accused except for Qader were present at the court.

Soon after the verdict, Rob secured ad-interim bail from the same court, saying he would appeal against the conviction.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the verdict, Public Prosecutor Mohammad Nadim Miah told reporters that they would appeal to the High Court, challenging the acquittal of Polychem's three officials and the lenient punishment of Rob.

He said the prosecution was able to prove the allegations against all the accused and sought the maximum punishment for the accused.

“But the court punished only one of them. Those who were responsible for quality control and manufacture of the drug were acquitted,” Nadim said.

In its judgment, the court said it has been proved that paracetamol syrup, manufactured by Polychem, contained industrial toxic chemical diethylene glycol.

“M/S Polychem Laboratories Limited director cannot avoid responsibility for manufacturing the adulterated and sub-standard drug. The court thinks he should get appropriate punishment.”

Use of toxic industrial chemical in paracetamol syrup is a heinous offence, it mentioned.

“Dishonest businesspeople produce adulterated and sub-standard medicine for excessive profits ... It is like playing games with people's lives. This is a heinous crime.”

The judge further said the case had gone on for 26 years, and the company's managing director Harun-ur Rashid died during the trial while Rob spent a month and 14 days in jail.

“Rob is now 65. He faced harassment as he had to appear before the court for so many years. Abdur Rob has been given a lenient sentence, considering his age, physical condition and detention,” he said.

On July 22, 2014, the same court had awarded three officials of Adflame Pharmaceuticals 10 years' rigorous imprisonment for manufacturing adulterated drug that killed 76 children in 1990.

It also fined the three convicts Tk 2 lakh each. The convicts are Adflame director Helena Pasha, and manager Mizanur Rahman -- both aged around 70 -- and production officer Nigendra Nath Bala.

Later on August 17, 2015, the court handed down 20 years' imprisonment to three directors and three employees of pharmaceutical company BCI (Bangladesh) Ltd and fined them Tk 4 lakh each in two cases for producing and marketing toxic paracetamol syrup.

The drug administration filed the cases in 1992 for using poisonous diethylene glycol in two batches of its paracetamol syrup that killed at least 76 children.

Trial proceedings against the companies were stayed in 1994 following a HC order.

The proceedings resumed in 2011 after an investigative report by The Daily Star in November 2009 revealed corruption by government agencies to save the accused.

From June to August in 2009, at least 28 children died of renal failure after they took paracetamol syrup and suspension allegedly manufactured by Rid Pharma. The case is pending with the HC.

According to a survey by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, 2,700 children died due to renal failure after taking toxic syrup from 1982 to 1992.


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