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WHO records 300 children’s death after contaminated cough syrup intake

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned Nigeria and other countries to intensify enforcement against over-the-counter cough syrups after recording over 300 children deaths in three countries.

WHO noted that over the past four months, countries have reported several incidents of over-the-counter cough syrups for children which had been contaminated with high levels of diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG).

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.

The cases were from at least seven countries, associated with more than 300 fatalities in three of these countries and the victims were children under the age of five.

WHO’s caution to Nigeria and other countries to prevent, detect and respond immediately was contained in a statement released on its official website and obtained by The Guild on Wednesday.

The global organisation stated that it had earlier issued three global medical product alerts to all 194 member nations after the outbreak in Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan.

Some of the products found responsible for these fatalities include Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, Magrip N Cold Syrup, AMBRONOL syrup, and DOK-1 Max syrup.

Others were: Termorex syrup (batch AUG22A06 only), Flurin DMP syrup, Unibebi Cough Syrup, Unibebi Demam Paracetamol Drops, Unibebi Demam Paracetamol Syrup, Paracetamol Drops (manufactured by PT Afi Farma), Paracetamol Syrup (mint) (manufactured by PT Afi Farma) and Vipcol Syrup.

According to the statement, these medical product alerts requested the detection and removal of contaminated medicines from circulation, increased surveillance as well as diligence within the supply chains of countries and regions likely to be affected, and immediate notification to WHO if these substandard products are discovered in-country; and otherwise inform the public of the dangers and toxic effects of the substandard medicines at issue”.

Who, meanwhile, urged the Federal and State Governments to use its agencies to detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets and substandard medical products that have been identified in the WHO medical alerts referred to above as potential causes of death and disease;

“They should ensure that all medical products in their respective markets are approved for sale by competent authorities and obtainable from authorized/licensed suppliers and assign appropriate resources to improve and increase risk-based inspections of manufacturing sites within their jurisdiction in accordance with international norms and standards.

“Also, increase market surveillance including risk-based targeted testing for medical products released in their respective markets including informal markets; and enact and enforce, where relevant and as appropriate, laws and other relevant legal measures to help combat the manufacture, distribution and/or use of substandard and falsified medicines”.

“Also, drug distributors should always check for signs of falsification and physical condition of medicines and other health products they distribute and/or sell and only distribute and/or sell medicines authorized by, and from sources approved by competent authorities.

“They should keep accurate, complete, as well as proper records relating to the medicines and their distribution and/or sale; and
engage competent personnel to handle medicines and provide advice to the public on the appropriate use of the medicines”.

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