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Contaminated cough medicines linked to 300 deaths of children, WHO investigates

Several nations have reported occurrences in the last four months in which over-the-counter cough medicines for children were verified or suspected to be contaminated with significant quantities of diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG).

Following a series of child deaths connected to cough syrups last year, the World Health Organization has called for “urgent and concerted action” to protect children from contaminated drugs.

Links Between Cough Medicines And Children’s Deaths

More than 300 children, mostly under the age of five, died of acute renal damage in the Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan in 2022, according to a WHO statement released on Monday.

Over-the-counter cough syrups included significant quantities of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

“These contaminants are dangerous compounds used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even in small doses and should never be found in medicines,” according to the WHO. Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan are among the countries mentioned by the WHO.

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What Medicines Are Involved?

Several nations have reported occurrences in the last four months in which over-the-counter cough medicines for children were verified or suspected to be contaminated with significant quantities of diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG).

The four medications for Gambia are Promethazine oral solution, baby cough syrup Kofexmalin, baby cough syrup Makoff, and cold syrup Magrip N, all manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited of Haryana, India.

Termorex syrup (batch AUG22A06 only), Flurin DMP syrup, cough syrup Unibebi, paracetamol drops Unibebi Demam, paracetamol syrup Unibebi Demam, paracetamol drops (manufactured by PT Afi Farma), paracetamol syrup (mint) (manufactured by PT Afi Farma), and Vipcol syrup are the eight products available in Indonesia.

AmbronoL and DOK-1 Max syrups have been named after Uzbekistan. Marion Biotech Pvt. Ltd. is the company that makes both products. Uttar Pradesh, India-based Ltd.

“To date, the indicated producer has not offered guarantees to WHO on the safety and quality of these items,” the WHO wrote, stressing that its medical product alerts were quickly distributed to all 194 member states’ national health authorities.

In addition to the nations listed above, the WHO warned Reuters on Monday that the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Senegal, and Cambodia may be affected because the drugs are on the market. It urged its 194 member countries to take action to avert further tragedies.

The WHO urges health regulators and governments to discover and remove from their markets any inferior medical items that have been identified as possible causes of death and disease.

Among a number of recommendations for regulators, governments, medicine producers, suppliers, and distributors, the Organization also urges for all medical items to be approved for sale by competent authorities and obtained from authorized suppliers.

Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup are the four products recognized in the Gambia. Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited is listed as the manufacturer of these items (Haryana, India).

MBRONOL syrup and DOK-1 Max syrup have been identified in Uzbekistan. MARION BIOTECH PVT. LTD is the stated manufacturer of both goods (Uttar Pradesh, India).

Termorex syrup (batch AUG22A06 only), Flurin DMP syrup, Unibebi Cough Syrup, Unibebi Demam Paracetamol Drops, Unibebi Demam Paracetamol Syrup, Paracetamol Drops (PT Afi Farma), Paracetamol Syrup (mint) (PT Afi Farma), and Vipcol Syrup are the eight goods identified in Indonesia.

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