India nabs senior employees of pharma company linked to Uzbekistan cough syrup deaths

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Indian police on Friday arrested three senior employees of a pharmaceutical company whose cough syrups were linked to the deaths of 19 children in Uzbekistan, a police officer said.

The arrests were made after tests by an Indian government laboratory found 22 drug samples of Marion Biotech Pvt Ltd, based near New Delhi, “adulterated and spurious,” according to a police document seen by Reuters.


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Police said they had arrested a Marion head of operations and two chemists.

Two directors were “out of the country and will be arrested as soon as they land in India,” senior police official Ram Badan Singh told Reuters.

The company did not answer calls from Reuters and did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Uzbekistan said in December the children died after consuming Marion’s cough syrups. India suspended Marion’s production soon after.

Analysis by Uzbekistan’s health ministry showed the syrups, Ambronol and DOK-1 Max, contained a toxin, ethylene glycol.

The syrups were administered in doses higher than the standard for children, either by their parents, who mistook it for an anti-cold remedy, or on the advice of pharmacists, according to the analysis.

The same toxin was found in cough syrups exported to Gambia by another Indian company, Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

India suspended production at Maiden in October last year for violations of manufacturing standards after the World Health Organization said four of its cough syrups may have killed dozens of children in Gambia.

The company has denied its drugs were at fault for the deaths in Gambia and tests by an Indian government laboratory found there were no toxins in them.

An Indian court last month sentenced two Maiden executives to two-and-half years in jail for exporting substandard drugs to Vietnam a decade ago.

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