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WHO calls for ‘immediate, concerted actions on contaminated medicines linked to over 300 kids’ deaths

The World Health Organization on Monday called for “immediate and concerted action” towards contaminated medicines after children’s deaths linked to cough syrups last year. The organisation said, “These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even taken in small amounts, and should never be found in medicines.”

WHO said that in 2022, over 300 children under the age of five died of acute kidney injuries, associated with contaminated medicines in Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Gambia. 

It told Reuters that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal and Cambodia might also be affected because they still have the medicines on sale. It has also urged for action across its 194 member states to prevent deaths. 

“Since these are not isolated incidents, WHO calls on various key stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action.”

It said that the over-the-counter-cough syrups had high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol. 

The WHO already sent specific product alerts in October 2022 and earlier this month, asking to remove these medicines made by India’s Pharmaceuticals and Marion biotech, which are linked to deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan. 

It also issued a warning last year for cough syrups made by four Indonesian manufacturers that were sold domestically. The manufacturers include PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical, PT Konimex and PT AFI Pharma.

It urged the governments and regulators to assign resources to inspect manufacturers, increase market surveillance and take necessary actions. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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