Tablets linked to the deaths of at least fifteen women at a government-run sterilization camp in Chhattisgarh, India, were likely contaminated with a chemical compound commonly used in rat poison, two senior state officials said on Saturday. On November 14, 2014, Chhattisgarh government seized tablets of various "substandard" drugs manufactured by Mahawar Pharma.
The government seized over 200,000 tablets of Ciprocin 500, as well as over 4 million other tablets. Police have arrested Ramesh Mahawar, managing director of Mahawar Pharma. In 2012, Mahawar Pharma was found to have produced sub-standard drugs, but it did not lose its license and was temporarily barred from manufacturing medications for a mere 90 days.
Preliminary tests of the antibiotic Ciprocin tablets were found to contain zinc phosphide. The antibiotics were handed out to women at a recent mass sterilization. In addition to fifteen deaths, around twenty women who attended the camp remain in intensive care. The death toll is expected to rise. Additional victims are arriving from the nearby villages, complaining of vomiting, dizziness, swelling and other symptoms consistent with suspected zinc phosphide poisoning.