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The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert over cough and cold syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in India after they were potentially linked to the deaths of 66 children in the Gambia.
Four cough syrups have been urgently recalled.
The cough syrups have been identified as Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director General, told reporters the four cold and cough syrups in question “have been potentially linked with acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children […] The loss of these young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families.”
“The preliminary results from the ongoing investigation indicate that it is most probably the paracetamol and promethazine syrups that caused the acute kidney injury cases in this outbreak,” Abubacarr Jagne, the nephrologist leading the health ministry’s investigation, told AFP.
Medical professionals in the Gambia sounded the alarm back in July following reports of children falling ill with kidney problems. They soon found that dozens of patients younger than five were falling ill three to five days after ingesting one of the four paracetamol syrups.
WHO’s lab analysis “confirms that they contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants.”
These substances are toxic to humans, potentially causing “abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state and acute kidney injury which may lead to death.”
Gambia Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Health dispatched hundreds of volunteers to collect the syrups via a house-to-house campaign.
Maiden Pharmaceuticals has not responded to statement requests from the media.