WHO issues product alert warning against cough syrups manufactured in India

WHO has issued a medical product warning against four cough syrups manufactured in India, which it suspects are causing the deaths of children in the Gambia. According to the warning, four cough syrups Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup, have been marked unsafe by WHO. All these four cough syrups have been manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited (Haryana, India). WHO stated that Maiden Pharmaceuticals have not produced any documents which ensure the safety and efficacy of these cough syrups. This issued warning has created a sense of urgency in the Indian pharmaceutical industry. The Indian government has issued an investigation against Maiden Pharmaceuticals and its cough syrups. However, the Indian government is also waiting for data from WHO which will solidify the claims made by WHO.  WHO in its report stated that the four cough syrups in question showed in laboratory testing that they contained unsafe levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol. Diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol are considered contaminants in cough syrups. Hence, having higher levels of these compounds could be harmful. As of now, these findings are limited to the cough syrups distributed in the Gambia. But, WHO has stated the possibility of similar situations can also be seen with cough syrups distributed in other countries.  The compounds diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol are considered harmful to humans. This is mainly because, diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, mental health decline, acute kidney failure, etc., upon consumption. If the consumed amount is higher, it can lead to the person’s death. WHO has directed people not to consume cough syrups manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals. WHO stated that until the National Regulatory Authorities do not complete their analysis and label these products safe for consumption, people should stay away from them. WHO especially has prohibited the use of these syrups in children as the amounts of toxic glycol contaminants found in these syrups are extremely high for children. WHO has advised the national regulatory authorities in the Gambia to target these syrups actively and to take them out of circulation. Regions and countries affected by these products have also been advised to monitor the supply chains related to these products.  So far, over 66 children have been found dead, possibly due to the consumption of these cough syrups. If the situation proceeds to find Maiden Pharmaceuticals guilty, it will seriously damage India’s reputation in the global pharmaceutical industry. India is the largest pharmaceutical market in the world and is often referred to as the pharmacy of the world. Because of this, the Indian government is actively looking after this case and launched an investigation against the company and its products in question. Indian officials looking after the case have said that they are waiting for evidence that links the deaths of children in Africa with the products in question.  The members of the Indian Health Ministry said that Maiden Pharmaceuticals only manufactured these products and exported them to the Gambia. This scraps off WHO’s concern of finding similar situations in other countries.