WHO urges ‘immediate action’ after cough syrup deaths

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization has called for “urgent and concrete action” to protect children from contaminated medicines after a spike in child deaths from cough syrup last year.

In 2022, more than 300 children – mainly under the age of 5 – died from acute kidney injury in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan, the WHO said in a statement on Monday. , in deaths that were associated with contaminated drugs.

The medications, over-the-counter cough syrups, had high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

“These pollutants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal in even small amounts, and are never found in medicines,” the WHO said. Should.”

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Along with the countries above, the WHO told Reuters on Monday that the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Senegal and Cambodia could potentially be affected because they could sell the drugs. It called for action in its 194 member states to prevent further deaths.

“As these are not isolated incidents, WHO calls for urgent and coordinated action by the various key stakeholders involved in the medical supply chain,” WHO said.

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The WHO has already sent product-specific alerts in October and earlier this month, calling for the withdrawal of drugs for cough syrups made by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech, which linked to deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan respectively.

It also issued warnings last year for cough syrups made by four Indonesian manufacturers, PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical, PT Konimex and PT AFI Pharma, which were sold locally.

The companies involved have either denied that their products were contaminated or declined to comment while the investigation is ongoing.

The WHO reiterated its call for the above flagged products to be removed from circulation, and more broadly called on countries to ensure that any drugs for sale are approved by competent authorities. It also asked governments and regulators to allocate resources to inspect manufacturers, increase market surveillance and take action where necessary.

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It required manufacturers to buy raw ingredients only from qualified suppliers, test their products more thoroughly and keep records of the process. WHO added that suppliers and distributors should check for signs of falsification and only distribute or sell medicines authorized for use.

Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Edited by Mark Heinrich and Christina Fincher

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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