WHO counters Indian government on action against Maiden Pharma over deaths of children in Gambia

The global body argues that it had to issue a quick warning after finding ethylene and diethylene in cough syrups, to prevent more deaths.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, December 17, 2022, 03:43 PM IST
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The horrifying deaths of 69 children in Gambia allegedly caused by a cough syrup manufactured by an Indian pharma firm, brought the company under scrutiny. The World Health Organisation conducted tests on samples of Maiden Pharma’s four cough syrups, and found excessive ethylene and diethylene, which caused the deaths. But the Indian government, after its own tests, told parliament that Maiden’s syrups are of standard quality, calling WHO’s findings premature.

Stands by its findings

As Maiden Pharma, a repeat offender pulled up for substandard drugs in India before, expressed hope to restart operations, WHO has contradicted the Indian government’s claims. The global healthcare body reiterated its warning against the cough syrups manufactured at the pharma company’s plant in Sonepat, Haryana. In a response to the Economic Times, the WHO mentioned that tests in Ghana and Switzerland revealed ethylene and diethylene in the syrup, and that the substances shouldn’t be in any medicine.

Acted quickly to prevent more deaths

WHO also added that it immediately shared information, since quick action is required when a large number of children are dying because of a mysterious condition. The body also mentioned that is tried to collect information on sourcing of raw materials and product distribution by Maiden Pharma, but couldn’t find clarity.

Repeat offender

Maiden Pharma’s medicines have been flagged for low quality in Bihar, Jammu Kashmir, Gujarat and Kerala as well since 2008. It was also among the firms blacklisted by Vietnam over poor quality of drugs back in 2011.

Protecting image over quick action?

The Drugs Controller General of India gave a clean chit to Maiden based on the results of tests conducted by the government’s technical committee. He wrote to WHO complaining about the damage to the image of India’s pharma sector, because of its quick action to prevent deaths. The Indian government’s findings came more than two months after the mass deaths of children in Gambia.

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