Exclusive to DNA: Analysis of WHO’s global warning about cough syrups from India linked to the deaths of children in The Gambia

A global warning has been issued for four cough syrups after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned they could be linked to the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia. Samples of four cough syrups manufactured by a Sonipat-based company were sent to the Central Drugs Laboratory in Kolkata for examination on Thursday, a day after WHO may have linked them to the deaths of children. The WHO warned that four “contaminated” and “substandard” cough syrups, reportedly produced by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited, based in Haryana’s Sonepat, could be the reason for the deaths of children in the West African nation.

In Today DNA, Rohit Ranjan of Zee News analyzes the WHO’s global warning about four cough syrups manufactured by an India-based pharmaceutical company that could be linked to the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia.

The Indian drug regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has already launched an investigation and has asked WHO for more information. In a statement, the government said the samples of the four syrups have been sent by CDSCO for testing to the Regional Drug Testing Lab, Chandigarh, the results of which will lead to further action.

The development comes after the WHO issued a medical warning over the deaths, labeling the company’s four products — Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup — made by the company ” medical products of substandard quality”.

“WHO has issued a medical product warning for four contaminated drugs identified in The Gambia that may be associated with acute kidney injury and 66 deaths in children,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Wednesday. “The loss of young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families,” he said.

Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited was licensed by the State Drug Controller to manufacture these products and export them only to The Gambia.

It should be noted, however, that the WHO has not provided the exact “one-to-one causal relationship of death” nor has it shared the details of labels and products in question with the CDSCO.

Earlier, the WHO informed the DCGI that it was providing technical assistance and advice to The Gambia.

It had stressed that the use of drugs potentially contaminated with diethylene glycol/ethylene glycol was a major cause of the deaths, and said its presence had been confirmed in some of the samples tested.

The CDSCO said it responded to WHO within an hour and a half of receiving the warning by raising the issue with the state’s regulatory agency.

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