WHO says four Indian cough syrups may have caused the death of 66 Gambian children

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an alert against four India-made cough syrups saying they may be responsible for the death of 66 children in the Gambia.

“The four products are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup. The stated manufacturer of these products is Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited (Haryana, India),” said a WHO statement (pdf) released yesterday (Oct. 5).

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“Please do not use them,” the WHO said. Its advisory also said that the UN health agency, too, had cautioned against the “contaminated medications.”

However, an ongoing Gambian government probe has also cited the E.coli bacteria as a possible cause of the acute kidney failure outbreak, the Guardian has reported.

All eyes are on the Haryana-based pharma company

The global medical body said Maiden Pharmaceuticals “has not provided guarantees” to it on the safety and quality of these products.

The cough syrups in question.
The cough syrups in question.

It is probing the Indian firm, along with regulatory authorities, in connection with the deaths in the Gambia. The company is yet to make a statement.

Citizens of the Gambia had taken to social media to criticise Indian authorities for the deaths.

Africa is one of the most important—second after North America—geographies for India’s pharmaceutical industry. Indian pharma companies exported products valued at more than $3.5 billion in 2019-20 to countries like South Africa. The industry also dominates India’s exports to Africa, accounting for about 40 % of it, alongside petroleum products.