Indian cough syrup: mysterious intermediary may provide key


An accused Mumbai middleman provided a critical raw component for Indian-made cough syrups linked to the deaths of over 70 Gambia children.

The World Health Organization said last year that the syrups, manufactured by the Indian business Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd., contained lethal ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol both of which are used in automotive brake fluid. Unscrupulous actors may utilize these compounds to substitute propylene glycol, a crucial component of syrupy drugs since they are half the price.

The bulk of the children under the age of five died within days of eating the syrups due to acute renal injury.

The propylene glycol in the syrups was “recorded to have been imported” from South Korean company SKC Co Ltd by Delhi-based Goel Pharma Chem, according to India’s pharmaceuticals authorities in December.

The chemical was obtained in sealed barrels by Sharad Goel’s north Delhi-based enterprise, but not from SKC. “We bought the propylene glycol from an importer in Mumbai who bought it from SKC,”

“I can’t name the supplier – we have business links that we need to keep,” Goel said, adding that he had “not done anything wrong.” “We just trade sealed barrels,” he pointed out. They’re pointless.”

After the Gambia poisonings, his company stopped supplying PG but kept selling starch, and he obtains the majority of his commodities from 8-10 importers.

When a reporter called twice in April, Goel stopped taking calls and shuttered his business. According to adjacent factory employees, it hasn’t opened in months.

According to Goel, there is a gap in Gambia, India, and the WHO’s hazardous products investigations. The discovery comes as the WHO and the government of Gambia claim that India’s lack of information has hampered the search for a culprit.

According to a notice sent to Maiden by India’s pharmaceutical authority, factory inspectors discovered that batches of medicine may have been labeled incorrectly.

The alleged middlemen, as well as other issues raised in this study, were not addressed by India’s health ministry.

According to the WHO’s chief investigator, the supply chain intermediate accusation came to a “dead end” due to a lack of information from Indian authorities and pharma.

“If you ask and don’t get informed, it’s a dead end,” said Rutendo Kuwana, WHO’s team director for substandard and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, on March 31.

A WHO official stated last week that Indian authorities merely informed them that Goel acquired propylene glycol from SKC, but there was no documentation of the exchanges. The Korean government has also not acknowledged the transaction with the WHO. Korean authorities refused to comment.

According to India’s regulator, raw material data is derived through certificates of analysis (COAs), which monitor medicine components. Maiden said in October that it purchased raw ingredients from “certified and reputed companies.”

According to India’s health ministry, Maiden’s syrups are not related to Gambia’s deaths and have “adversely impacted the image” of the country’s $41 billion pharmaceutical industry.

The Gambia’s Medicines Control Agency said that it has not heard from Maiden or Indian officials “despite our request for information after the discovery of the tainted products.”

According to Kuwana, the WHO is still scrutinizing Maiden’s wares. According to WHO notifications, the agency is also looking into the supply chains of two other Indian pharmaceutical companies that sold contaminated cough syrups in Uzbekistan, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia. Both firms deny any involvement; in March, Indian police arrested three employees of one.

In January, Uzbekistan apprehended four people for the crime. They and authorities from Micronesia did not respond to requests for comment.


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