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WHO urges ’immediate action’ after cough syrup deaths, 3 global medical alerts issued

Mangalore Today News Network

New Delhi, Jan 24, 2023: The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged "immediate and concerted action" against contaminated medicines. The development comes after several child deaths linked to cough syrups were reported in 2022.


Cough Syrup

In a statement, the WHO on Monday said more than 300 children - mainly aged under 5 - in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died of acute kidney injury, in deaths that were associated with contaminated medicines.

The medicines, over-the-counter cough syrups, had high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

The UN health agency also said that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal and Cambodia may potentially be impacted because they may have the medicines on sale.

Further, it called for action across its 194 member states to prevent more 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," WHO said.

Over the past four months, countries have reported several incidents of over-the-counter cough syrups for children with confirmed or suspected contamination 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.

Based on country reports, WHO has issued three global medical alerts addressing these incidents.

    * The Medical Product Alert N°6/2022 on October 5, 2022 focused on the outbreak in the Gambia
    * The Medical Product Alert N°7/2022 on November 6, 2022 focused on Indonesia
    * The Medical Product Alert No1/2023 on January 11, 2023 focused on Uzbekistan


The WHO has called on the regulators and governments to -

* detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets any substandard medical products that have been identified in the WHO medical alerts referred to above as potential causes of death and disease

* ensure that all medical products in their respective markets are approved for sale by competent authorities and obtainable from authorised/licensed suppliers

* assign appropriate resources to improve and increase risk-based inspections of manufacturing sites within their jurisdiction in accordance with international norms and standards

* increase market surveillance including risk-based targeted testing for medical products released in their respective markets, including informal markets

* 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

Courtesy: India Today

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