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WHO calls for ‘immediate action’ after cough syrup deaths

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization has called for “immediate and concerted action” to protect children from tainted medicines after a spate of child deaths linked to cough syrups last year .

In 2022, more than 300 children – mostly under the age of 5 – in The Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died from acute kidney failure, in deaths associated with tainted medicines, the WHO said in a statement on Monday. communicated.

The drugs, over-the-counter cough syrups, had high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even when taken in small amounts, and should never be found in medicines,” the WHO said.

In addition to the above countries, the WHO told Reuters on Monday that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal and Cambodia could potentially be affected as they may have the drugs on sale. It called for action in its 194 member states to prevent more deaths.

“Given that these are not isolated incidents, WHO calls on the various key stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action,” the WHO said.

The WHO has already sent out specific product alerts in October and earlier this month, asking for the drugs to be removed from the shelves, for cough syrups made by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech, which are respectively linked to deaths in The Gambia and Uzbekistan.

It also issued a warning last year for cough syrups made by four Indonesian manufacturers, PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical, PT Konimex and PT AFI Pharma, which were sold domestically.

The companies involved have either denied their products were contaminated or declined to comment while investigations are ongoing.

The WHO reiterated its call for the products flagged above to be withdrawn from circulation and called more broadly on countries to ensure that any medicine put on sale is approved by the relevant authorities. He also asked governments and regulators to allocate resources to inspect manufacturers, increase market surveillance and take action if necessary.

He called on manufacturers to only buy raw ingredients from qualified suppliers, test their products more thoroughly and keep records of the process. Suppliers and distributors should check for signs of tampering and only distribute or sell drugs that are authorized for use, the WHO added.

Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Christina Fincher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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