‘WHO stands by its action on Gambia cough syrup issue’, Health News, ET HealthWorld

'WHO stands by its action on Gambia cough syrup issue'

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday reiterated that its tests in Ghana and Switzerland had confirmed excess levels of ethylene and diethylene in India-made children’s cough syrups that were available in The Gambia, contradicting the Indian government’s claim.

The UN health body said it stands by its action to issue a statement warning about the medicines made by Sonepat-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

India had on Thursday said quality tests on the samples lifted from Maiden Pharmaceuticals – which has been in the dock for allegedly causing deaths of children in The Gambia – by the government’s Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) found the products to be in compliance with prescribed specifications and not contaminated with diethylene glycol (DEG) or ethylene glycol (EG).

In an email response to ET, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier, however, said, “After testing the cough medicine products in both Ghana and Switzerland, they confirmed excess levels of ethylene and diethylene in children’s medicines that were available in The Gambia. These substances are dangerous and should not be in any medicine, ever.”

He claimed WHO has been sharing the information with the authorities in India.

When the confirmatory results were received, the organisation “immediately” shared them with authorities in The Gambia and India, as well as the manufacturer of the suspected products, Maiden Pharmaceuticals, he said.

Lindmeier said WHO had to act quickly as children were dying of “mysterious sickness”. “When many children die of mysterious sickness, it’s a tragedy that means WHO has to act quickly.”

Considering the nature of the events, WHO could not delay publication of its findings and hence proceeded to publish the global medical product alert on October 5, he said, adding that it had informed its intention to publish it to everyone including India. “We also informed these parties of our draft global alert and intention to publish. WHO stands by the action taken,” the spokesperson said.

He said the agency attempted to clarify product distribution, testing, and identification of sources of raw materials, but could not obtain any information.

WHO had on October 5 announced that the deaths of dozens of children in The Gambia from acute kidney injuries may be linked to contaminated cough and cold syrups made by an Indian drug manufacturer.

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