WHO warns and launches investigation into cough and cold syrup after 66 children die in Gambia

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday (5 October) issued an alert about cough and cold syrups manufactured by Indian laboratory Maiden Pharmaceuticals that may have caused the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia and were distributed in other countries.

It was WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who himself issued the warning during his weekly press briefing on world health issues.

Contaminated drugs are syrups that “Could be linked to acute kidney injury and death of 66 children”he explained before adding: “WHO is investigating with the company and regulators in India. »

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Four products are affected: syrups marketed under the name Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup. They are all manufactured by the Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited laboratory.

Products sold elsewhere

In the technical document of the warning, the WHO reports on it “Laboratory analysis of samples from each of the four products confirms contamination with diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol at unacceptable levels”.

Diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol are toxic and can be fatal. According to the WHO, the toxic effects can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, inability to urinate, headache, altered mental status and acute kidney damage, which can lead to death.

The Geneva-based organization adds that the four contaminated drugs were identified in The Gambia but may have been distributed elsewhere through informal markets. “In addition, the manufacturer may have used the same contaminated material in other products and distributed or exported them locally. A global risk is therefore possible.warned the WHO.

“All batches of these products should be considered unsafe until they can be analyzed by the relevant national regulatory authorities.”, the organization argued. As a precaution, the WHO recommends that all countries track down and phase out these drugs.

On September 9, Gambian health authorities announced they had opened an inquiry into the recent deaths of 28 children from acute kidney failure in mid-July, and urged hospitals and clinics to stop using paracetamol syrup.

Authorities had also cited the bacteria E. coli as possible causes, but on September 23 Gambian health authorities ordered the recall of all drugs containing paracetamol or promethazine syrup.

Gambia, continental African country with the smallest area, is 174e out of 191 on the United Nations Human Development Index, which summarizes the criteria of health, education and standard of living. According to the World Bank, almost half of the approximately 2 million inhabitants live below the poverty line.

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The world with AFP

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