January 28, 2023

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WHO Issues Alert, As Cough Syrups Kill 300 Children

The World Health Organisation has called on countries to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of substandard and falsified medical products.

The 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 and ethylene glycol.

The 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 UN body warned.

“The cases are from at least seven countries, associated with more than 300 fatalities in three of these countries. Most are young children under the age of five. 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.

“Most are young children under the age of five. 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,” it said in a press statement on its website.

The PUNCH reports that contaminated cough syrups have been a concern for public health officials.

The global health body 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, Medical Product Alert N°7/2022 on November 6, 2022, focused on Indonesia, and Medical Product Alert No1/2023 on January 11, 2023, focused on Uzbekistan.

Since these are not isolated incidents, the WHO urged stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action.

The agency called on regulators and governments to “detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets any substandard medical product that has been identified in the WHO medical alerts referred to above as potential causes of deaths and disease,” it added.

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