The World Health Organization is investigating a possible connection between contaminated cough syrups and the over 300 children who died after using the spoiled medication last year.
The investigation hopes to see whether the raw materials used to produce cough syrup by six manufacturers in India and Indonesia contained “unacceptable levels” of toxins — and as a result, caused the spate of deaths, someone with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
WHO is also looking to see whether the manufacturers received the bad materials from some of the same suppliers.
The agency has not named any of the suppliers it is investigating. It is also considering warning families across the globe against using cough syrup to treat children while it remains unclear whether the products are safe.
Experts are also researching whether products like cough syrup are medically necessary for children, the person told Reuters.
Within the past year, more than 300 children died of acute kidney injury in deaths that were associated with contaminated medicines, the WHO said in a statement Monday.
Most of those children were under the age of 5 and lived in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan. Their deaths were linked to medications that were found to contain high levels of toxic diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
In addition to the six manufacturers in India and Indonesia, the WHO said the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal and Cambodia may also have the contaminated medicines on sale. The agency called for “immediate action” across those countries to check for quality control in order to prevent further deaths.
“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even taken in small amounts, and should never be found in medicines,” the WHO said.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations said its members “are already doing what the WHO is calling for.”
WHO issued alerts on specific cough syrups in October made by two Indian manufacturers, Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech, saying their syrups were linked to deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan. Both plants have since closed.
WHO is expected to hold another press conference on the matter Tuesday.
With Post wires