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URGENT Cyanide Found In Anacin-3

June 25, 1986

SEATTLE (AP) _ Cyanide was found Tuesday in a bottle of Anacin-3 capsules during a random check of over-the-counter medications, officials said, warning area consumers not to take any non-prescription medicine in capsule form.

Containers of cyanide-tainted Extra-Strength Excedrin capsules were linked to two deaths earlier this month, but this is the first time the poison has been found in a capsule other than the Excedrin product in this latest cyanide-poisoning case.

Anacin-3 is manufactured by American Home Products Inc. of New York City. Company spokesman Jack Wood could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday. His home telephone was busy.

Meanwhile, the FBI confirmed the presence of cyanide in two bottles of Extra-Strength Excedrin taken to Washington for testing last week, said Jim Detrick, an Auburn police officer. That brings to four the number of contaminated bottles of Extra-Strength Excedrin.

Consumers should ″hold all forms of capsulated over-the-counter medication until further notice,″ Detrick said.

Auburn police Chief Jake Evans said at a news conference late Tuesday the bottle of Anacin-3 was pulled from a Pay ’N Save store in a north Auburn shopping center as the FDA took random samples.

The poisoned bottle, which was given to the FBI for further analysis, had been for sale Tuesday morning, he said.

″Any over-the-counter capsule medicine is suspected and should not be used,″ Evans said.

In a separate news conference, the FDA said the warning applied to the south King County area, including Kent and Auburn.

″We don’t consider it anything but a local problem,″ said Frank Young, regional FDA commissioner. Earlier, FDA spokesman William Grigg said in Washington that there was no nationwide alert.

Young and Evans said information on how many capsules in the Anacin-3 bottle were poisoned and the lot number was not being released.

″We’re not talking lots,″ Young said. ″We’re talking medication in south King County. We had reason to look at all products in capsules.″

He said all medication was suspect because of the lack of threats from the tampering.

Cyanide-laced Extra-Strength Excedrin capsules were blamed in the deaths this month of Sue Snow, 40, and Bruce Nickell, 52, who lived a few miles apart in Auburn, south of Seattle.

Seven people died in Chicago in 1982 after taking cyanide-laced Extra- Strength Tylenol capsules, and a New York woman died this year after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol.

FBI spokesman Joseph Smith in Seattle said the latest contaminated bottle was being sent to the FBI’s laboratory in Washington, D.C. He declined to give other details.

Auburn police Officer Bob Karnofski said the FDA notified Auburn police at 4:30 p.m. that tests showed cyanide in another type of capsulated medication, which he declined to identify. He said police were removing all capsule forms of over-the-counter medication from Auburn store shelves.

The FBI and local authorities are investigating the two local deaths, but the FBI has consistently declined comment.

Preliminary tests had indicated a foreign substance in a second bottle found in the Nickell home, and in a bottle found in a Kent store. Both were sent to an FBI crime lab, where officials confirmed the presence of cyanide, Detrick said.

One of the containers taken from the Nickell home had a different lot number from that of the two bottles earlier associated with the deaths of Ms. Snow and Nickell, he said. The other was from a store in nearby Kent, and it appeared to have been tampered with.

Detrick said the FBI tests apparently showed the cyanide found in those two bottles was from the same batch found in the bodies of the victims.

The FDA earlier had warned against use of Extra-Strength Excedrin capsules, and manufacturer Bristol-Myers recalled all non-prescription capsule products, including Extra-Strength Excedrin, Datril, Bufferin and Comtrex.

Ed Formoso, toxicologist with the State Toxicology Laboratory, said reviews of recent deaths - to test for cyanide - probably would continue at least through the week.

He said he was skeptical of the value of the testing, and that it appeared aimed at calming public concerns.

″I think the two (cyanide deaths) we found were the only two around,″ he said.

A statement from the King County medical examiner’s office said it ″has no suspicion at this time that there are any other cyanide-related deaths in King County.″