WHO calls for investigation into cough syrup deaths

Director-general of the organization said that contaminations happened in at least 7 countries and could have caused more than 300 deaths

The WHO (World Health Organization) asked this Tuesday (24.jan.2023) that countries prevent, detect and respond to incidents with medicines. It has been identified that children were contaminated from the sale of over-the-counter cough syrups. Here’s the full of the declaration (219 KB, in English).

The director general of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the cases happened in at least 7 countries. According to the statement, confirmed or suspected contamination with high levels of diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG) is linked to more than 300 deaths in 3 of these countries.

“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even in small amounts and should never be found in medicines”he stated.

To date, 6 drug manufacturers in India and Indonesia have been identified that have produced syrups outside dosage standards. The information is from Reuters.

Child deaths from acute kidney injury began in July 2022 in The Gambia, followed by cases in Indonesia and Uzbekistan. The WHO said the deaths were linked to over-the-counter cough syrups that had toxins.

WHO has issued 3 medical alerts to national health authorities in all 194 WHO Member States regarding cases of poisoning. Here’s the list:

  • October 5, 2022: Medical Product Alert #6/2022 – Substandard Pediatric Medicines (Focused on Gambian cases). Here’s the full (205 KB, in English);
  • November 2, 2022: Medical Product Alert #7/2022 – Substandard Pediatric Liquid Dosage Pediatric Drugs (Focused on Indonesian cases). Here’s the full (205 KB, in English);
  • January 11, 2023: Medical Product Alert N°1/2023 – Substandard Liquid Dosage Drugs (Focused on cases in Uzbekistan). Here’s the full (219 KB, in English).

In the declaration of this 3rd fair (24.jan), the organization asked that the medicine manufacturers buy raw materials from qualified suppliers, test their products and keep records of the process.

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