Indian maker of syrup linked to death of children in Uzbekistan halts production

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India’s drug regulator said on Thursday that it had inspected Marion Biotech’s production facility and promised more action based on the probe report after the company’s cough syrup was linked to death of 19 children in Uzbekistan.

A legal representative of Marion Biotech said the Indian maker of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics regretted the deaths and the company has halted production of the Dok-1 Max syrup.

The drug regulator reviewed the company’s Noida facility in the Uttar Pradesh state and is in regular touch with its Uzbekistan counterpart, the Indian health ministry said in a statement.

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“The samples of the cough syrup have been taken from the manufacturing premises and sent to Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory, Chandigarh for testing,” the ministry said.

Uzbekistan’s health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 18 children in Samarkand city died after consuming the syrup manufactured by the Indian drugmaker.

Another child, a one-year-old, died after being given the syrup for five days, Uzbek news website said on Thursday, citing the Qashqadaryo regional prosecutor’s office.

Officials in the Samarkand region had initially not reported the deaths to the ministry, the report added, citing Health Minister Bekhzod Musayevand.

Seven employees were dismissed by the Uzbek ministry following a probe into the matter, and “disciplinary measures” were taken against some specialists. The Doc-1 Max tablets and syrups have also been withdrawn from all pharmacies, the Uzbek ministry added in its statement on Wednesday.

The syrup contained a toxic substance, ethylene glycol, and was administered in doses higher than the standard dose for children either by their parents, who mistook it for an anti-cold remedy, or on the advice of pharmacists, the Uzbekistan ministry said.

India’s Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers issued an order on Thursday, laying out specifications to regulate the sale of ethylene glycol from the end of March.

The incident follows another similar one in Gambia, where deaths of at least 70 children had been linked to cough and cold syrups manufactured by New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The Indian government and also the company, however, have since denied the allegations.

India is known as the ‘pharmacy of the world,’ and has doubled its pharmaceutical exports over the last decade, touching $24.5 billion in the last fiscal year.

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