WHO issues fresh warning over new batch of toxic Indian cough syrup

Monitoring Desk

GENEVA: The World Health Organization has issued a warning over a new batch of Indian cough syrup, this time in circulation in two Pacific Island countries, cautioning that the product could cause serious injury or death among children, according to a www.telegraph.co.uk report.

Samples of ‘Guaifenesin Syrup TG Syrup’, which is manufactured by QP Pharmachem Ltd, a company situated in the western Indian state of Punjab, were found to contain unacceptable levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, altered mental state and acute kidney injury.

The WHO warned the citizens of the Marshall Islands and the Federal States of Micronesia to not use the product and if it had already been consumed to contact a medical professional immediately. “Neither the stated manufacturer nor the marketer have provided guarantees to [the] WHO on the safety and quality of these products,” read a WHO statement, adding, “[it is] unsafe and its use, especially in children, may result in serious injury or death.”

QP Pharmachem’s managing director, Sudhir Pathak, told Reuters the company had sampled the exported batch and found it satisfactory, as had the state drug regulator in Punjab.

Mr Pathak also said that the product had also been widely distributed in India and that 18,000 bottles had only been exported to Cambodia, so it was unclear how they had ended up in the Pacific.

It is the latest scandal to embroil the pharmaceutical industry in India, whose factories manufacture 20 per cent of the world’s generic drugs and 50 percent of vaccines.

Last year, Indian-made cough syrups were linked to the deaths of over 300 children in the Gambia and Uzbekistan, while in March, the WHO issued an alert over an Indian-manufactured cancer drug circulating in the Middle East.

In October and November 2022, around five percent of the 2,767 drugs and medical devices tested by the Indian government’s regulated failed quality testing.

Poor regulation is usually to blame. The sector permits some companies to cut costs when it comes to procuring raw materials or to skip the testing of finished products.