Indian syrup chemicals linked to Gambia child deaths found in Indonesia

Jakarta, Oct 20 (EFE).- Indonesia said Thursday that it has found traces of three “hazardous” chemicals in children with acute kidney injury, two of which are present in Indian-manufactured syrups suspected to be linked to dozens of deaths in Gambia.

“Under-five patients with AKI (acute kidney injury) were detected to have 3 hazardous chemicals (ethylene glycol-EG, diethylene glycol-DEG, ethylene glycol butyl ether-EGBE),” the Indonesian health ministry said in a statement.

“These three chemicals are impurities from the ‘harmless’ chemical, polyethylene glycol, which is often used as a solubility enhancer in many syrup types,” it added.

Acute kidney injury has caused 99 minor deaths in the country since January.

The World Health Organization issued an alert on Oct. 6 about four cough and cold syrups produced by the Indian-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals saying they could be linked to the death of over 60 children in The Gambia.

These include Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.

Until now, the Indonesian authorities had said that these products were not available in the country.

“Laboratory analysis of samples of each of the four products confirms that they contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants,” the WHO said.

In its statement on Thursday, the Indonesian ministry said that it found “several types of syrup used by under-five patients with AKI” containing ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol butyl ether but did not specify whether any of these medicines were manufactured in India or flagged by the WHO.

“While waiting for the drug authorities/BPOM (National Agency of Drug and Food Control) to finalize the results of their quantitative research, the ministry of health takes a conservative position by temporarily prohibiting the use of syrup medicines” given the alarming number of deaths, it added.

According to the ministry, currently at least 70 cases of children under the age of five years with acute kidney failure are being detected every month with a mortality rate of about 50 percent.

It added that in reality the cases were likely to be many more.

Health ministry spokesperson Mohammad Syahril said at a press conference on Wednesday that there had been an increase in cases of acute kidney injury among children since the end of August.

The spokesperson said that so far this year, the ministry had registered 206 cases of acute kidney injury in children – of which 99 have died -, as opposed to the previous average of one or two cases per month.

The WHO also said that, to date, the four products had been identified only in The Gambia but added that they may have been distributed to other countries through informal markets.

Maiden Pharmaceuticals has been operating for more than 30 years and has two plants in India, both in the northern state of Haryana.

It produces capsules, injections, liquid syrup, ointments and tablets that are sold in countries in Asia, Africa and South America, according to the company. EFE


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