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Quebec Coroners Urge Cough Syrup Controls, Citing Lethal Ingredient

03/05/2012 07:19 EST | Updated 05/05/2012 05:12 EDT
QUEBEC - Two Quebec coroners say cough syrup contains a substance that when taken incorrectly can be lethal and it should be taken off the shelves and put under the control of pharmacists.

Coroners Pierre Guilmette and Andree Kronstrom investigated the deaths of two men who died after accidental poisoning with Dextromethorphan, usually found in cough syrup.

Yvon Boucher, 64, died after simultaneously taking Dextromethorphan, the antibiotic Biaxin and the antidepressant Prozac — a combination that can cause a potentially deadly chemical reaction.

Boucher bought the syrup at his regular pharmacy but was not warned about mixing it with other products.

The coroners reported antidepressants in the same chemical family as Prozac are widely prescribed in Canada and that Biaxin is popular for treating respiratory tract infections.

Also, a toxicological analysis on victim Marcel D'Amour, 65, showed a concentration of Dextromethorpan higher than the toxic threshold, indicating he did not consider recommendations on the product label.

The coroners said Monday the easy availability of Dextromethorphan is a danger to public safety.

Kronstrom said Dextromethorphan should be controlled by a pharmacist who could dispense advice on how to use the drug and its interaction with other medication.

The coroners reported that there were 20 deaths between 2000 and 2009 due to accidental poisoning by medication.

They also recommended that the College of Pharmacists encourage its members to withdraw Dextromethorphan from the shelves before legislation is needed and that pharmacists advise their clients about its dangers.

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