Cough syrups may be linked to more than 300 child deaths: WHO

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The World Health Organization is investigating a possible link between contaminated cough syrup and more than 300 children who died last year after using spoiled medicine.

The investigation hopes to see if the raw materials used to make cough syrups by six manufacturers in India and Indonesia contained “unacceptable levels” of toxins. told Reuters.

WHO is also looking to see if manufacturers have received bad ingredients from some of the same suppliers.

The agency has not named the supplier it is investigating. It is also considering warning families around the world not to use cough syrup to treat children while the product’s safety remains unknown.

Experts are also investigating whether products like cough syrup are medically necessary for children, the person told Reuters.

Over the past year, more than 300 children have died from acute kidney injury linked to contaminated medicines, the WHO said in a statement Monday.

Most of those children were under the age of five and lived in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan. Their deaths were related to drugs found to contain high levels of the toxic diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.


The World Health Organization is investigating a potential link between contaminated cough syrup and 300 child deaths in several countries.
Photo by Milano Bergmans/AFP via Getty Images

A mother of a child with acute kidney injury attends a preliminary hearing in a class action lawsuit against the Indonesian government and pharmaceutical companies over the sale of contaminated cough syrup in Jakarta on January 17, 2023.
A mother of a child with acute kidney injury attends a preliminary hearing in a class action lawsuit against the Indonesian government and pharmaceutical companies over the sale of contaminated cough syrup in Jakarta on January 17, 2023.
Reuters/Agen Dinar Wolfiana

In addition to the six manufacturers in India and Indonesia, the WHO said contaminated medicines may also be sold in the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Senegal and Cambodia. Asked for “immediate action” Check quality control across these countries to prevent any more deaths.

“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents, even small amounts can be lethal and should not be present in medicines,” said WHO.

The Federation of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations said its members were “already doing what the WHO wants”.


Most of the children who died of acute kidney injury lived in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan.
Most of the children who died of acute kidney injury lived in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan.
AP Photo/Tatan Shufrana

In October, the WHO issued a warning about certain cough syrups made by two Indian manufacturers, Maiden Pharmaceuticals and Marion Biotech, saying they were linked to deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan. Both factories have since closed.

WHO plans to hold another press conference on the issue on Tuesday.

with post wire

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