WHO urges 'immediate action' as more children die from cough syrups
The over-the-counter (no prescription needed) medicines are found to contain high and deadly levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
As children continuously and increasingly become victims to contaminated cough syrups, the World Health Organization (WHO) requested “immediate and concerted action” to prevent further deaths of children due to this alarming matter.
Just in 2022, over 300 children total, in the Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died due to kidney failure linked to the contaminated medicines, according to the WHO on Monday. The over-the-counter (no prescription needed) medicines were found to contain high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even taken in small amounts, and should never be found in medicines,” the WHO stated as it further warned that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal, and Cambodia may be affected because the medicines are being sold there.
“Since these are not isolated incidents, WHO calls on various key stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action,” WHO said.
Investigations in India begin
The WHO already asked for the cough syrups manufactured by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech, tied with the deaths in the Gambia and Uzbekistan respectively, to be removed off shelves. It also issued warnings to remove those manufactured by Indonesian manufacturers PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical, PT Konimex and PT AFI Pharma.
Governments and regulators were urged to appoint resources to carry out inspections, amp up security on market surveillance and take action when needed. Manufacturers were also called on to purchase raw ingredients from qualified and trusted suppliers while maintaining records of all processes.
Signs of falsification are required by suppliers and distributors to be checked for and to distribute medicines authorized for use.
In October last year, 66 children died in Gambia as a result of ingesting cough medicine by India's Maiden Pharmaceuticals under the brand names of Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.
A few weeks later, 99 children in Indonesia died due to acute kidney failure from the ingested cough syrups. Indonesia's food and drug agency released a statement that such products were not available locally.
Following the rack-up of cases, Indian authorities initiated an investigation against the pharmaceutical business Marion Biotech in December, situated in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, after 18 infants died in Uzbekistan as a result of taking the company's medications.
Laboratory examinations indicated the presence of ethylene glycol, a hazardous chemical, in a batch of syrups.