Gambia child deaths linked to India medicine

The Indian government is investigating the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia linked to the use of an India-made cough syrup, two federal health ministry sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said the deaths of the young children from acute kidney injuries could be linked to contaminated cough syrup manufactured in India.

The sources said the Indian government asked the WHO to share the report establishing causal relation to death with the cough syrup.

The findings, announced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, followed tests on several medicinal syrups suspected of causing 66 child deaths in the West African country. He said an investigation was being conducted with Indian regulators and the mafucaturer Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

The WHO issued a medical product alert on Wednesday, asking regulators to remove Maiden Pharma goods - Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup - from the market.

The products could have been distributed elsewhere through informal markets, but had so far been identified only in Gambia, the WHO said in its alert.

Lab analysis confirmed "unacceptable" amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which can be toxic and lead to acute kidney injury, the WHO said.

Medical officers in Gambia raised the alarm in July, after dozens of children began falling ill with kidney problems.

The deaths confounded medics before a pattern emerged: dozens of patients younger than five were falling ill within five days after taking a locally sold paracetamol syrup.

Gambia's health services director Mustapha Bittaye said similar problems were detected in other syrups but the ministry was awaiting confirmation of the results.

He said the number of deaths tapered off in recent weeks and that the sale of products made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals was banned. However, until recently, some of the syrups were still being sold in private clinics and in hospitals.

Maiden has refused to comment on the situation.



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