Indian pharma under scrutiny again after 18 Uzbek child deaths | Health News

Among the world’s largest carpet exporters, India is investigating the company whose cough syrup was linked to the deaths.

India opens investigation into death of 18 children in Uzbekistan after it consumed Indian-made cough syrup, as one of the world’s largest exporters of the drug faces increasing scrutiny over the quality of the drugs it produces.

In a statement on Thursday, India’s Ministry of Health said that the Central Drug Standards Control Organization (CDSCO) – the country’s drug regulator – is in contact with its counterpart in Uzbekistan regarding the incident. .

The Uzbek Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the children died after taking a medicinal syrup, Dok-1 Max, made by Indian drug maker Marion Biotech Pvt Ltd. ethylene glycola toxic substance that has been implicated in the deaths of children in the past.

“As soon as the information was received, a joint inspection of the manufacturer’s Noida facility, Marion Biotech, was carried out by the Uttar Pradesh Drug Control team and CDSCO and further action, if appropriate, would be initiated. based on the inspection report,” the Indian government said in its statement on Thursday. Noida is a suburb of the capital New Delhi and is located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The Indian Ministry of Health said cough syrup samples had been taken for testing.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) told Al Jazeera that the organization is “in contact with health authorities in Uzbekistan and stands ready to assist with further investigation”.

Police are seen at the gate of the office of Marion Biotech, a pharmaceutical and healthcare company and part of the Emenox Group, whose cough syrup has been linked to the deaths of children in Uzbekistan. , in Noida, India, December 29, 2022. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
Police at the gate of Marion Biotech office in Noida [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

Hasan Harris, the legal representative of Mario Biotech, was quoted by Indian media as saying that production of the drug has been halted.

The incident happened a few months after death of 70 children in the Gambia is related to cough syrup made by New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd, although the company and the Indian government deny any quality problems with the drug. Vietnam entered the Maiden blacklist in 2014.

Many low- and middle-income countries rely on India for medicine supply. India supplies 45% of all generic drugs to Africa. Its pharmaceutical exports have more than doubled in the past decade.

Prashant Reddy, a public health activist in India, told Al Jazeera that “the main problem is that there is no transparency about how the drug regulator works”.

“It is clearly not good for India to have had two such incidents in just a few months,” said Reddy, adding that the Indian government should act to convince not only the global market but also the global market. people of India that the medicines manufactured in the country meet acceptable standards.

“The Indian drug regulator has to be a lot more transparent. They have to make sure that quality measures are followed,” said Reddy. “Children are dying and that’s alarming.”

But J Jayaseelan, vice president of the Pharmaceutical Association of India, an industry body, told Al Jazeera that “there is a group of competitors that are going against India”.

“India is supplying the whole developing world with medicine. Investigations will take place and everything will be clear. But this seems to be a false allegation,” he said. “We are a leader in the pharmaceutical world so our competitors will try to do these things. There have been similar allegations before, but nothing has been scientifically proven.”

Jairam Ramesh, a leader of India’s opposition Congress party, has demanded that the government stop “bragging about India being a medicine for the world” and instead take “stern action”. most” to anyone responsible for the deaths in Uzbekistan.

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