Evidence in the cases against toxic paracetamol syrup producers appears to have been swept under the rug by none other than the country's drug regulatory body itself.
For the first time in two decades since the trial opened against BCI (Bangladesh) Ltd, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) yesterday finally produced before the Dhaka Drug Court the original documents relating to tainting the company's paracetamol syrup, Paraciton, with diethylene glycol.
Earlier, the DGDA repeatedly claimed to have lost all the papers relating to the matter, particularly in response to requests made in 2011 under the Right to Information Act by The Daily Star for access to the record.
The development has revived hopes of justice being done in the case. The pharmaceutical company was sued in 1992 over the deaths of 76 children from consumption of adulterated paracetamol syrup. The trial had opened in the same year, but stopped two years later as the DGDA failed to produce evidence before the court.
The trial in the case was subsequently stayed by a High Court order in 1994 until the stay order was vacated in 2011.
The Drug Court on August 6 sent complainant Abul Khair Chowdhury, assistant director of the DGDA, to prison for ignoring its orders 18 times since 2011 about testifying in the case. He was released four days later upon a written pledge by the DGDA that it would produce the records before the court.
Judge Abdur Rashid exhibited the documents as evidence in the case and fixed August 28 for the next hearing in the case.
BCI (Bangladesh) Ltd was one of the four pharmaceuticals whose paracetamol syrup, meant for consumption by children, was tested positive for containing diethylene glycol, which is believed to have caused fatal renal failure in children suffering from fever.
Court records showed that two accused from one of the companies, Rex Pharma, secured acquittal in 2003 as the prosecution never produced any evidence. The trial court verdict was never challenged in the higher courts.
On July 22, an owner and two staff members of another company, Adflame Pharmaceuticals, were sentenced to jail for 10 years each for tainting paracetamol syrup the same way.
The case against Polychem has been stayed since 1994 due to the same reason, namely, non-availability of evidence.