The Uttar Pradesh Drug Control and the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) are investigating Noida-based firm Marion Biotech, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on December 29, 2022. This comes a day after the Uzbekistan health ministry’s statement, linking the deaths of 18 children in the country to drinking contaminated health syrup made by Marion Biotech.
Samples of the syrup have been sent to the Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory in Chandigarh for further testing, said Mr. Mandaviya.
Media reports quoted a legal representative for Marion Biotech as saying that the company had ceased production of the cough syrup pending an investigation.
The controversy took on political overtones with Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeting that the Narendra Modi-led government should “stop boasting” about India being a pharmacy to the world and take strict action, while the ruling party accused the Congress of deriding India in its “hate” for the Prime Minister.
The Indian government was in touch with Uzbekistan authorities, but it would be premature to link the present case with a recent incident in The Gambia where children’s deaths were also blamed on Indian-made cough syrups, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
“Uzbek authorities have not formally contacted us on the case, but our embassy has reached out to the government and is seeking further details of their investigation. We understand legal action has been initiated against some individuals including the local representative of the Indian company and we are offering all consular assistance in that case,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. “I am hesitant to term these as similar incidents. There are proper mechanisms to find out what happened. Each incident would be different. In terms of the previous case in Gambia, our drug regulatory authorities shared details with the World Health Organisation (WHO).”
The Indian pharmaceuticals industry has been a reliable supplier of drugs to countries across the world and every such incident would be taken “very seriously”, though in this particular case more enquiries were needed, he added.
Contaminated with ethylene glycol
The deceased children in Uzbekistan had reportedly consumed “excessive amounts” of the cough syrup, which contained ethylene glycol, a substance that ought not to be present in cough syrup. This comes days after a parliamentary panel in The Gambia found “unacceptable levels” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in cough syrup made by Haryana-based Maiden Pharma. There, the cough syrup has been linked to instances of acute kidney injury that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 63 children.
Following WHO’s warning on October 5, linking the four syrups to the deaths in The Gambia, Maiden Pharma’s export license has been suspended. However, India has said that the WHO has drawn a “premature link” between the deaths of the children and the India-made cough syrups.
(with inputs from PTI)