WHO investigates link between cough syrup deaths

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 WHO investigates cough syrup death link

The WHO is investigating links between manufacturers whose contaminated cough syrups have been linked to the deaths of more than 300 children in three countries, Reuters reports.

Referring to “unacceptable level” toxins in products, WHO is seeking more information about the specific raw materials used by manufacturers in India and Indonesia to manufacture medicines associated with recent deaths, and whether the companies sourced them from the same suppliers. WHO is also considering whether to stop recommending the use of cough syrups for children in general. WHO experts evaluate the need for such products for children from a medical point of view.

Child deaths from acute renal failure began in July 2022 in the Gambia, followed by cases in Indonesia and Uzbekistan. The WHO said the deaths were linked to over-the-counter cough syrups the children were taking for common illnesses that contained a known toxin, either diethylene glycol or ethylene glycol.

To date, WHO has identified six drug manufacturers in India and Indonesia that have produced syrups. Earlier this month, special warnings were issued for cough syrups made by two Indian manufacturers, Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech. It stated that their syrups had been linked to death in the Gambia and Uzbekistan, respectively, and warned people to stop using them. The Maiden and Marion manufacturing plants were closed.

A warning was also issued about cough syrups produced by four Indonesian manufacturers – PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical, PT Konimex, PT AFI Farma.

The WHO said the syrups were contaminated with diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which it called “toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreezes” , which can be fatal even in small amounts. Their toxic effects include inability to urinate, kidney damage, and death.

The deaths have highlighted potential gaps in global drug regulation, including oversight of factories and supply chains.

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