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WHO issues a “call to action” after cough syrup deaths

Published on 24/01/23 at 09:58am

WHO has released an urgent “call to action” to all 194 WHO member states in order to try and prevent, detect and respond to incidences of illegitimate medical products.


Since October 2022, three countries ‒ the Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan ‒ have reported children dying from Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), which resulted from them taking cough syrup containing diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol. WHO issued global medical alerts for each country, leading to products being recalled for public safety and testing by authorities.


In the Gambia, four products made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals were found to have high levels of the chemicals after 66 children died. In Uzbekistan, an analysis conducted by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health identified “unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and/or ethylene glycol” in products made by Marion Biotech.


As part of their call to action, the WHO has asked regulators to, amongst other things, “detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets any substandard medical products that have been identified in the WHO medical alerts…” and “increase marketing surveillance including risk-based targeting testing for medical products released in their respective markets…”.


They have also asked manufacturers to, amongst other things, “only purchase pharmaceutical grade excipients from qualified and bona fide suppliers” and “provide assurance of product quality including through certificates of analyses based on appropriate testing results”.


James Spargo

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