India finds more toxic cough, anti-allergy syrups months after poisoning deaths

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India’s drug regulator has found that a cough syrup and an anti-allergy syrup made by Norris Medicines are toxic, according to a government report, months after Indian-made cough syrups were linked to 141 children’s deaths worldwide.

The medicines were contaminated either with diethylene glycol (DEG) or ethylene glycol (EG), the same contaminants found in the cough syrups that caused the deaths in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon since the middle of last year.

This is the first time in at least two years that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has flagged any DEG and EG contamination in its monthly reports as the country tries to crack down on its $42 billion drug industry dominated by small players.

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H.G. Koshia, commissioner of Gujarat state’s Food and Drug Control Administration, told Reuters on Wednesday that they inspected Norris’s factory last month and ordered it to suspend production.

“The company failed miserably on compliance parameters of good manufacturing practices,” Koshia said. “Adequate water system was not there. The air-handling unit was also not up to the mark. In the larger interest of public health, we ordered the unit to stop production.”

Norris did not respond to an email seeking comment. Its office numbers were not in service when Reuters called.

Its Trimax Expectorant contained 0.118 percent of EG, while allergy drug Sylpro Plus Syrup had 0.171 percent of EG and 0.243 percent of DEG, according to tests at a CDSCO laboratory, according to its list of “not of standard quality/spurious/adulterated/misbranded” drugs for August uploaded on its website.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the safe limit, based on internationally accepted standards, is no more than 0.10 percent.

It was not immediately clear if the Norris drugs had been recalled or if they caused any harm. Both medicines were listed on online pharmacies when Reuters checked.

The CDSCO also found three batches of COLD OUT syrup made by Fourrts (India) Laboratories contaminated with DEG and EG. The World Health Organization said in August that a batch of COLD OUT sold in Iraq had unacceptable levels of DEG and EG.

Fourrts Chairman S.V. Veeramani did not respond to a request for comment.

Veeramani, who is the chairman of the government-backed Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (pharmexcil), told Reuters in August that a recent “analysis of retention samples” of COLD OUT showed there was “no contamination or toxins.”

“There is no report of any adverse effect or death due to the product,” he said in a WhatsApp message. “As a matter of abundant caution, we have voluntarily recalled the product in Iraq market.”

The alerts on the toxic medicines come at a time when the government, through pharmexcil, is organizing workshops for drugmakers across the country to stress the importance of drug quality and patient safety.

The CDSCO list also named a glycerine batch made by Adani Wilmar, despite it containing 0.025 percent EG, within the WHO safety limit. Adani Wilmar did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.

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