Twenty-one students studying in Delhi Government-run schools were hospitalised with mild symptoms of side effects after they consumed iron and folic acid supplements under a newly-launched government programme. The students experienced the symptoms two hours after they were first administered the medicines on Wednesday and were taken to hospital. Yet, Delhi Government officials said that none of the patients was reported to be in a serious condition and they have all been discharged.

The Delhi Government launched its ‘Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Programme’ on Monday which was implemented under the ‘Chacha Nehru Sehat Yojana’ in all schools under the Delhi Government, aided schools and those under the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board.

Delhi Health Minister A.K. Walia said that under the scheme the tablets have been scheduled to be administered each Wednesday and were given to the students for the first time this week. “Of the 18 lakh beneficiaries, known side effects that include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, loose stool and metallic taste were reported in less than 200 children.” He said that world-wide these symptoms are documented to be experienced in the initial doses of iron and folic acid tablets in about 1 per cent of total beneficiaries but in the case of Delhi only 0.01 per cent of the total beneficiaries have been reported to experience them.

“The body gradually adjusts itself to the intake of the iron and folic acid supplementation after the first administration and can be safely repeated in subsequent doses. All necessary systemic preparations for managing such events have been put in place,” said Dr. Walia.

Among the children who were hospitalised were girls from the Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in Bharat Nagar in Ashok Vihar area who were rushed to the Sundarlal Jain Hospital on Wednesday. They were discharged on Thursday morning.

“Eight students in the age group of 10-12 years were brought to the hospital on Wednesday by the local police. They all had the common complaint of abdomen pain and vomiting. They said they were given iron tablets in their school,” said an official at the Sundarlal Jain Hospital.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North West) P. Karunakaran said that the matter was brought to the notice of the police following which a case was registered under Section 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code at the Bharat Nagar police station. He, however, added that the FIR was registered against unknown persons as the matter was being investigated.

Under the scheme, 18 lakh iron and folic acid tablets were administered to 15 lakh Delhi Government, New Delhi Municipal Council, Delhi Cantonment Board and all government aided school children. In addition, 2 lakh adolescents under Anganwadi Centres and one lakh teachers and Anganwadi workers, helpers and ASHAs in different parts of the city were also administered the same.

Dr. Walia clarified that the drug provided under the programme was manufactured in June 2013 with expiry date in May 2015 and the drugs have been pre-tested from a government approved laboratory.

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