WHO slams 2 Indian Cough Syrups as ‘substandard’

Bureau Report

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning against the use of two India-made cough syr-ups linked to the deaths of at least 20 children in Uzbekistan.
The UN agency said that the two products – AMBRONOL and DOK-1 Max – made by the Indian manufacturer Marion Biotech were “substandard” and failed to meet quality standards.
The alert was released after at least 20 children died in Uzbekistan last month after consuming a cough syrup under the brand name Doc-1 Max.
In response, India’s health ministry suspended production at the company and Uzbekistan banned the import and sale of Doc-1 Max. India has also launched an investigation into the Uzbekistan deaths.
WHO also said that laboratory analysis of AMBRONOL syrup and DOK-1 Max syrup samples “found both products con-tained unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and /or ethylene glycol as contaminants” which are toxic to humans, especially to children and may result in death.
In October, WHO released another warning about another India-based drug manufacturer, Maiden Pharmaceuticals, after its cough syrups may be tied to 66 deaths in The Gambia, mostly children. Lab analysis also confirmed “unacceptable” amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, according to the WHO.
India launched a probe into Maiden Pharmaceuticals but later said the investigation had found the suspect drugs were of “standard quality”.
Similarly, the Indonesian government banned all syrup and liquid medicine prescription and over-the-counter sales following the deaths of more than 100 children in the country from acute kidney injury (AKI) this year, linked to harm-ful substances in medicinal syrups.
Indonesian health authorities said that they were investigating an unexplained rise since January 2022 in the number of children’s deaths from AKI.
In October, Indonesia had ordered cough syrup products manufactured by a company in India to be removed from sale after the death of 66 young children in The Gambia from acute kidney failure.
According to the Indonesia Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM), the chemicals had been found in locally-produced products, including fever medicines Termorex Syrup, Unibebi Fever Syrup and Unibebi Fever Drops, as well as cough medicines Unibebi Cough Syrup and Flurin DMP Syrup.
To treat the sudden rise in acute kidney failure cases, Indonesia had to ask neighbouring countries, including Australia and Singapore, for the antidote – a medicine known as fomepizole – but the potential treatment arrived too late for Fajar whose illness, like many other children affected across the country, at first appeared innocuous.
“I thought it was just a normal fever but it wouldn’t go down, so I went to the local pharmacy and bought some liquid paracetamol for him,” Siti had told media.

But every time Fajar’s temperature dropped, it would surge back up again within a few hours, so Siti decided to take him to hospital. There she was told Fajar probably had dengue fever – a disease caused by mosquito bites – and he was put on a drip. Unfortunately, Siti, who like many Indonesians does not have medical insurance, could not afford to keep her son in hospital for further tests and observation.
“After he had one bag of medicine through the drip, I decided to take him home and try and raise some more money for his treatment,” she said.

While she was trying to secure the funds from friends and neighbours, Siti continued to treat Fajar’s fever with locally bought syrups – buying two different brands in addition to a fever syrup prescribed by the hospital.