US CDC concludes contaminated Indian cough syrup likely caused the deaths of 66 children in Gambia


Contaminated cough and paracetamol syrup imported into Gambia almost certainly caused the deaths of 66 children from acute kidney injury, according to an investigation led by scientists from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gambia.

The link between the child deaths and the contaminated medicines was first revealed in October, when the World Health Organization issued a warning saying that four cough syrups made by India’s Medan Pharmaceuticals Ltd contained diethylene and ethylene glycol toxins. levels were and should be withdrawn.

A new investigation “strongly suggests” that drugs contaminated with toxins, imported into The Gambia, caused severe kidney injuries in 78 children. Most were under the age of 2, and 66 died between June and September 2022. Four more children have died, bringing the official toll to 70.

Which calls for action after deaths from cough medicine

A cameraman takes a visual outside the offices of Medan Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Co. in New Delhi, India on Oct. 6, 2022. (Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

Maiden has denied that its drugs were to blame for the deaths in Gambia, and the Indian government has said that no contamination was found in the syrup when they were tested. Production at the factory was halted in October, but the company is now looking to resume operations.

The report, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, reached its conclusions by looking at patients’ medical records as well as interviews with their parents and caregivers. It also says other evidence, such as drug tests, the wide geographic spread of cases, and the fact that the disease does not spread to adults, point to a toxin rather than an infectious agent.

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There have been several poisonings linked to diethylene and ethylene glycol in the past in countries including Haiti and Nigeria, but the report said this was the first known incident where imported drugs were at fault rather than domestically developed drugs.

“This potential poisoning incident highlights the potential public health risks posed by inappropriate quality management of pharmaceutical exports,” the report said.

Following the deaths in Gambia, 201 children have died in Indonesia, and 19 in Uzbekistan, linked to contaminated cough syrups from various manufacturers.

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