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Child deaths in Gambia linked to consumption of made-in-India cough syrups: US report

In October, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert stating that the four cough syrups being supplied to Gambia by India-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd were of substandard quality and claimed that they were linked to the death of many children in Gambia.

Edited By: Hritika Mitra @MitraHritika New Delhi Updated on: March 05, 2023 0:02 IST
Child deaths in Gambia linked to consumption of
Image Source : FILE Child deaths in Gambia linked to consumption of made-in-India cough syrups: US report

A new investigation conducted by the United States Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Gambian health authorities suggested a strong link between the deaths of children in Gambian and made-in-India cough syrups that were allegedly contaminated.

In October, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert stating that the four cough syrups being supplied to Gambia by India-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd were of substandard quality and claimed that they were linked to the death of many children in Gambia.

According to a CDC report released on Friday, medications contaminated with certain chemicals were seen as the reason for the deaths of children. "This investigation strongly suggests that medications contaminated with Diethylene Glycol [DEG] or Ethylene Glycol [EG] imported into the Gambia led to this Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) cluster among children," the report stated. 

"Patients with DEG poisoning can experience a range of signs and symptoms, including altered mental status, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms; however, the most consistent manifestation is AKI, characterized by oliguria (low urine output) or anuria, progressing over 1-3 days to renal failure (indicated by elevated serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen),” the report further read.

According to the CDC, they were contacted by Gambia's Ministry of Health (MoH) to assist in characterizing the illness (multiple cases of Acute Kidney Injury and deaths in children), describing the epidemiology, and identifying potential causal factors and their sources in August last year. The report also said that in past DEG outbreaks, manufacturers have been suspected of substituting DEG in the place of more expensive, pharmaceutical-grade solvents.

"Among reports of AKI associated with DEG-contaminated medical products, this is the first in which DEG-contaminated medications were imported into a country, rather than being domestically manufactured,” it said. It further said medications for export might be subject to less rigorous regulatory standards than those for domestic use.

"Simultaneously, low-resource countries might not have the human and financial resources to monitor and test imported drugs," it stated. Union Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar in a reply to Lok Sabha on February 3 had said that after testing, the samples of the cough syrups have been declared to be of standard quality. The samples were found to be negative for both Diethylene Glycol (DEG) and Ethylene Glycol (EG), Pawar had said in a written reply to a question.

ALSO READ | Indian-made cough syrups did not cause Gambia children deaths, DCGI informs WHO

 

ALSO READ | Govt panel says information shared by WHO inadequate to determine reason for deaths linked to Gambia

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