After 12 Udhampur Infants, WHO Links Punjab Cough Syrup to Death of 66 Kids in Africa


SRINAGAR: A cough syrup was held responsible for the death of 12 (another report says 17) infants in Udhampur in 2019 and 2020. Now another syrup was ‘potentially linked’ to the deaths of 66 children in the Gambia by none other than the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Udhampur medicine was manufactured in Himachal Pradesh. The one that is talked about in the Africa case was manufactured and marketed by Sonepat-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals. The deaths led to the closure of all the units of the Kala Amb based firm Digital Vision. However, both drugs have one thing in common – an adulterant.

It was during the investigation in 2020 that the PGI’s Advanced Paediatric Centre said it was the presence of Diethylene glycol that was the killer adulterant in the syrup. It is the same adulterant that the WHO is linking to the deaths in the Gambia.

WHO in its October 5 alert has said that two toxic chemicals – diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG), if consumed beyond permissible limits prove fatal to humans. They cause kidney and neurological toxicity.

“This is a shocker,” Bhavneet Bharti told Chandigarh-based newspaper, The Tribune. She was then at the PGI’s Advanced Paediatric Centre and identified an adulterant. Now she is serving BR Ambedkar State Institute of Medical Sciences, Mohali, as Director-Principal. “The same contaminant we had flagged in 2020 is now being linked to potential deaths of children in the Gambia. The issue is of regulatory oversight. While we cut costs to produce more and more drugs, we need to ensure good and safe manufacturing practices. Manufacturers often lack awareness regarding the potential fatality of certain compounds. No one does these things intentionally, but awareness is critical.”

Reports appearing in the media said the investigations have started to see if the WHO apprehensions are correct.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government has announced they will take action on the four particular syrups that the company is marketing in Jammu and Kashmir.

These include Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.

(Photograph used in the report is not linked to it)


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