Probe deepens over tainted cough syrup

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2006, 12:00am

Health authorities receive reports of at least 13 children being prescribed medicine containing rubbing alcohol

Thirteen children yesterday reported that they were prescribed cough syrup containing rubbing alcohol at a Tung Chung clinic, health authorities said as investigations continued into the mix-up.

Private doctor Hin Lin-yee closed his clinic at Yat Tung Shopping Centre for a week following the revelation. Department of Health investigators sealed a bottle of the syrup and samples were sent to the Government Laboratory for testing. Results are expected today, said a spokeswoman.

The Department of Health on Wednesday announced that up to 50 children were being sought after one of them was admitted to hospital complaining of a burning sensation in his mouth each time he took the medicine.

The hospital notified the Health Department that the mixture contained isopropyl alcohol. The six-year-old boy, who had taken three 5mm doses before his mother took him to Princess Margaret Hospital on Tuesday, was in a satisfactory condition last night.

He went to see Dr Hin on Monday and was given the syrup, which is transparent, for a running nose and allergy.

Dr Hin, who earned his medical degree in Belfast in 1994, had never been subject to disciplinary action in the past, according to the Medical Council secretariat.

By 5pm yesterday, when the department hotline 2125 2727 closed for the day, 13 calls had been logged relating to the tainted medicine, a department spokeswoman said.

A few of Dr Hin's patients came to the clinic only to find it closed.

'My three-year-old son came to see the doctor for a cold on August 29. He has taken the medicine for seven days and doesn't look any better,' said one mother, Mrs Cheung.

'I was worried and [after seeing news about the contaminated medicine] called the health department. They said they would take the medicine back. I am worried about him. He hasn't been able to go to school for days.'

Mrs Cheung said her son had been prescribed a different syrup than the one that had caused problems, but feared the other syrup might also have been mixed up.

'You never know. I am going to take him to the emergency room of the Yan Chai Hospital.'

A Mrs Yip, whose daughter was prescribed the contaminated medicine on Monday, had not felt ill and had been able to go to school.

'The clinic hasn't called me yet. I will take my daughter to the hospital to check,' she said.

A Mrs Chan said Dr Hin was a 'very good' doctor.

'He saved me when I fainted in a shopping mall once. All my friends went to see him. I still have confidence in him. I am not worried about being given the wrong medicine. I am just worried his clinic might not open again after this.'

Isopropyl alcohol , can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting and, in large doses, headache, dizziness and even death.