Capsule Drug Sales Banned in Poison Scare

Associated Press

The state on Wednesday banned sales of over-the-counter capsules for 90 days as federal authorities searched thousands of bottles and packages for more of the cyanide that has contaminated two different products and killed two people.

The state Pharmacy Board, meeting in Spokane, voted to ban the sale of non-prescription capsules one day after cyanide was discovered in a bottle of Anacin-3 capsules in a random check.

It was the fifth bottle of pain medication found to contain cyanide. Last week, the deaths of two Auburn residents were blamed on cyanide-laced capsules of Extra-Strength Excedrin.

The board took its action over the objections of the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical industry representatives. The order takes effect as soon as paper work is completed, probably Friday morning, officials said.


The move bans all of the common, hard-gelatin, two-piece capsules used in over-the-counter medications, although such capsules still can be sold by prescription. The board said the capsules will be returned to manufacturers or destroyed.

64,000 Capsules Checked

FDA employees worked through the night checking 64,000 capsules, but none were found to be poisoned, spokeswoman Sue Hutchcroft said. The search will continue as long as the capsules keep coming in from the stores.

FBI spokesman Joe Smith said the bottle of Anacin-3, which contained about 50 capsules, was sent to the FBI’s laboratory in Washington, D.C. The FDA identification of cyanide was made through fluoroscopy, and the bottle was not opened.


Don Williams, executive director of the state Pharmacy Board, said the Anacin-3 may have been found in one of the same stores where tainted Excedrin was bought.

“Since that information was not publicly released, this leads me to believe this was not a copycat,” he said.

But Jim Davis, director of FDA investigations in Seattle, said the agency has not ruled out the possibility that more than one person is involved.

The FDA reiterated that it believed the poisonings were done locally and it was not a nationwide problem.


Anacin-3 is manufactured by American Home Products Inc. of New York City. Company spokesman Jack Wood said Wednesday that the company is asking all of its outlets in Washington state to quarantine all capsule products made by the company. The action was limited to Washington state.