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WHO links death of 66 children in Gambia to Indian cough syrups; India launches investigation

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalOct 06, 2022 | 13:23

WHO links death of 66 children in Gambia to Indian cough syrups; India launches investigation

Representative image of cough syrup. Photo: Getty Images

On October 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a notification which mentioned four Indian cough syrups that could have possibly killed 66 children in West African country Gambia since July 2022. The manufacturer of these syrups is the Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited.

These syrups are alleged to have caused caused acute kidney injury to the children because of which many died.

The four cough syrups are:

  1. Promethazine Oral Solution
  2. Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup
  3. Makoff Baby Cough Syrup
  4. Magrip N Cold Syrup
From left: Promethazine Oral solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, MaKOFF Baby, MaGrip n Gold cough syrup. Photo: WHO 

What WHO said: The health governing body said that the laboratory samples of all the four syrups showed that they contained unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants.

  • It also said that the four syrups could have been distributed through informal markets to other countries or regions. 
  • Diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol are toxic to humans and when consumed can prove fatal.
  • It added that all the batches of these products should be considered unsafe until they can be analyzed by the relevant national regulatory authorities.
  • The symptoms of toxic effects from this disease includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, inability to pass urine, altered mental state and acute kidney injury that can cause death.

How did this come to light? The medical officers in Gambia had raised alarm in July when several children had reported serious kidney problems.

  • Gambia's director of health services Mustapha Bittaye told Reuters that the number of deaths have gone down in the recent weeks and the country has banned the cough syrups.
  • However, he added that some of these syrups were being sold in private clinics and hospitals.

India's response: A health official confirmed to The Hindu that WHO on September 29 had informed the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) that it was providing technical assistance to Gambia where children had died and the contributing factor was suspected to be the use of medicines manufactured in India which may have been contaminated with diethylene glycol or ethylene glycol.

After this, the matter was taken up immediately by the state authorities. Further, a detailed investigation was launched to ascertain the facts/details in the matter in collaboration with the State Drugs Controller, Haryana.

Last updated: October 06, 2022 | 13:56
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