Rash of child deaths in Gambia linked to cough syrups made in India – WHO

Reuters, Oct. 5 According to the World Health Organization, contaminated cough and cold syrups supplied by an Indian medication producer may be to blame for the deaths of dozens of young children in Gambia who suffered from acute renal damage. Results from tests on various medical syrups that were suspected of causing 66 infant fatalities in the small West African country were announced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Tedros told reporters that the United Nations was investigating the syrups in conjunction with Indian authorities and the New Delhi-based manufacturer, Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The Drugs Controller General of India did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails, and Maiden Pharma declined to comment. The Indian government’s health ministry did not respond to our request for comment.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a medical product alert requesting that regulators pull Maiden Pharma products from shelves. The WHO warned that although the goods had only been found in Gambia, they could have been disseminated worldwide through informal marketplaces. Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough & Cold Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup are the four medications included in the advisory.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that lab tests showed “unacceptable” levels of the hazardous substances diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which can cause acute kidney impairment. After dozens of youngsters in Gambia began becoming ill with renal problems in July, medical officials there sounded the alarm. It took some time for doctors to piece together why so many children under the age of five were dying: they had all taken a locally supplied paracetamol syrup.

The director of health services in the Gambia, Mustapha Bittaye, stated that similar issues have been found in other syrups, but that the ministry is waiting for confirmation of the results. According to him, the death toll has been dropping steadily over the past few weeks, and items manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals are no longer for sale. Some of the syrups, he said, were still being sold up until quite recently in private clinics and hospitals.

On Tuesday, the Medicines Control Agency in Gambia notified medical practitioners that they were obligated to cease distribution of the WHO-identified drugs immediately. According to their website, Maiden Pharmaceuticals produces pharmaceuticals in India and exports them to markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Anil D’Silva, William Maclean, and Matthew Lewis edited the reporting from Leroy Leo and Raghav Mahobe in Bengaluru, Jennifer Rigby in London, and Edward McAllister.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), scores of children’s fatalities in Gambia may be related to tainted cough syrups manufactured in India. The World Health Organization has said that it is conducting tests on multiple medical syrups that may have contributed to the deaths of 66 youngsters in the small West African country due to severe kidney damage.

Rash of Child Deaths in Gambia
Rash of Child Deaths in Gambia

On Wednesday, the FDA issued a medical product alert requesting that all products manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in Delhi be immediately pulled from shelves. According to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organisation is initiating an inquiry in conjunction with Indian regulators and the corporation.

The company Maiden Pharmaceuticals has chosen to remain silent. The Indian government’s drug controller general did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails. When asked for reaction, India’s Health Ministry remained silent. Though only found in Gambia, the WHO warned that the items could have spread overseas through unregulated markets.

In total, the recall affects four different products: Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup. Toxic and potentially leading to acute kidney impairment, lab tests found “unacceptable” levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, the WHO stated.

Alarm raised

After dozens of youngsters in Gambia began becoming ill with renal problems in July, medical officials there sounded the alarm. It took medical professionals a while to piece together why so many children under the age of five were dying: they had all taken paracetamol syrup three to five days before to becoming unwell. Mustapha Bittaye, the director of health services in Gambia, claimed that the same issues have been found in other syrups.

but that the ministry is waiting for test results. According to him, the death toll has been dropping steadily over the past few weeks, and items manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals are no longer for sale. He did note, however, that some of the syrups were still being offered at private clinics and hospitals up until quite recently. On Tuesday, the Medicines Control Agency in Gambia notified medical practitioners that they were obligated to cease distribution of the WHO-identified drugs immediately.

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