Wednesday, February 8, 2023

India probes cough syrup blamed for Uzbek child deaths

India probes cough syrup blamed for Uzbek child deaths

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian authorities on Thursday halted production at a pharmaceutical company under investigation for a cough syrup blamed by Uzbekistan health officials for the deaths of at least 18 children.

Marion Biotech is the second local drugmaker to face a probe by regulators since October, when the World Health Organization linked another firm's medicines to a spate of child deaths in Africa.

Health minister Mansukh Madaviya said investigators had spoken to their counterparts in Uzbekistan and were inspecting the company's facility near the capital New Delhi.

He said on Twitter samples of the cough syrup have been taken and sent for forensic analysis. "Further action as appropriate would be initiated based on the inspection report," he said.

The health ministry of Uzbekistan said in a statement on Wednesday the children died after consuming a cough syrup under the brand name Doc-1 Max, according to local media reports.

It said the syrup was contaminated with ethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in the preparation of antifreeze, brake fluid, cigarettes, paints and some dyes, plastics, films and cosmetics.

Drug officer Dinesh Tiwari told AFP his colleagues inspected the firm on Thursday and ordered it to halt production.

"The results are expected in a few days," he said, adding that the medicine had not been sold in India.

Marion Biotech representatives could not be reached for comment. The Indian drugmaker Maiden Pharmaceuticals was accused in October of manufacturing several toxic cough and cold remedies that led to the deaths of at least 66 children in The Gambia.

The WHO said those medicines had also been contaminated with "unacceptable" amounts of ethylene glycol and a closely related compound. The victims, mostly between five months and four years old, died of acute renal failure.

India launched a probe of Maiden Pharmaceuticals after the WHO alert but said last week the investigation had found the suspect drugs were of "standard quality".