About 300 children have died in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan in the past months supposedly by the ingestion of different syrups and now the attention is focused on finding the origin of the two toxic components found in all medicines.
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesushas urged extreme alertness throughout the world and has urged an increase in the surveillance on products under suspicionwhich initially contain toxic amounts of diethylene glycol Y ethylene glycol.
This is the only common characteristic among the syrups indicated as possible causes of deaths from kidney failure of children in all three countries, with the drugs investigated in The Gambia and Uzbekistan coming from two Indian pharmaceutical companies and those implicated in Indonesia from local production.
Since when and where have cases been detected?
The first deaths came to light in October in The Gambia, where at least 70 children They have died to date from abnormal acute kidney failure, with the WHO issuing the alert on various syrups as the alleged cause on the 5th of that month.
Shortly after, on November 2, the organization activated another alert for Indonesia, following the death of at least 200 childrenthe majority under five years of age, due to the same condition, in a country that usually detects one or two cases of childhood kidney failure per month.
Lastly, at least 21 deaths of children have been recorded, also in the same circumstances, in uzbekistan, with the WHO issuing a new alert on January 11. In addition, the UN agency told EFE on Monday that there are “potential” risks in four other countries: Philippines, East Timor, Senegal and Cambodiaalthough the presence of contaminated syrups in these places has not yet been confirmed.
What has caused the deaths?
While there is no conclusive investigation yet in any of the countries, the WHO alert for The Gambia focuses on four products made by indian lab Maiden Pharmaceuticals: the oral solution of promethazinecough syrups Kofexmalin and Makoffand the syrup for the cold Magrip.
On December 20, although a committee of the Gambian Parliament declared that it was “convinced” that Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is guilty, it qualified that the cause of death of the children is still under investigation by the Ministry of Health.
For their part, the Indonesian authorities have suspended the licenses of several pharmaceutical companies local authorities (including PT Samco Farma, PT Ciubros Pharma, PT Yarindo Farmatama and PT Universal Pharmaceutical Industries), as well as suppliers (PT Mega Setia Agung Kimia and PT Tirta Buana Kemindo), for their possible link to the deaths.
In the case of Uzbekistan, the WHO issued a health alert about two other cough syrups, Ambronol and DOK-1 Maxmanufactured in India by another company, Marion Biotech, which would also contain “unacceptable” amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
What do the Indian and Indonesian authorities say?
On December 13, India’s Comptroller General of Medicines, VG Somaniinformed the WHO that the samples of the medicines that supposedly caused the death of the children in The Gambia “were not contaminated”.
For its part, the pharmaceutical company linked to the deaths in Uzbekistan, Marion Biotech, recently stated that it is an attempt to tarnish your reputation and that of India.
Indian authorities suspended Marion Biotech’s license in early January, while Maiden Pharmaceutical maintains it, but was ordered to halt production. All the indicated products were only authorized for export.
In Indonesia, twenty-five families of minors Those affected have taken the government to court – which even suspended the sale of all syrups in the country – and several pharmaceutical and chemical product manufacturers.
What are diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol?
According to the WHO and the Indonesian authorities, the contaminated syrups contained high levels of diethylene glycol Y ethylene glycolchemical components that are commonly used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents, substances that can be highly toxic to the kidneys and liver.
Attention is now partly focused on whether the pharmaceutical companies behind the designated syrups could receive raw material by the same suppliers, one of the most probable explanations, according to the expert sources consulted by EFE, who ask to remain anonymous.
The WHO has assured EFE that, “for the moment, no direct links established between the three incidentsBut the investigations continue.”
WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Medicines, Hanan Balkhystated this week that many of these drugs come through the informal market, and concern within the agency is growing, since “these are very common medicines” to which “more children could be exposed.”
Historically, numerous events of diethylene glycol contamination of different medications.
More of 800 people Many of them children have died in Panama since the mass poisonings that occurred between 2004 and that year came to light in 2006, due to the distribution of cough syrup, in what is considered the worst case to date. the date for diethylene glycol poisoning in the world.
In India, which has the third largest pharmaceutical industry in the world, the last relevant case dates from January 2020, in which eleven children died in the state of Jammu and Kashmir by consuming drugs contaminated with diethylene glycol manufactured by another pharmaceutical company, Digital Vision Pharma.