Why death of children in Gambia & Uzbekistan blamed on Indian Cough Syrup?

Production in Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited & Marion Biotech Pharma Company have halted. But is that enough?

The health Ministry of Uzbekistan had issued a statement which was meant to serve as an administrative instruction on the prohibition of the use of Dok-1 MAKS drug in children, after it found that at least 15 children died due to the drug. The Dok-1 MAKS is a drug developed by an Indian pharmaceutical company, Marion Biotech Pharma Company.

This advisory from Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health comes after weeks of controversy surrounding the death of 70 children in Gambia, allegedly due to a cough syrup made in India by a different company, which was alleged to have ‘ethylene glycol’ & ‘diethylene glycol’ which is known to have cause renal failure.

Former Union Minister and one of Congress’ top leaders, Jairam Ramesh had tweeted that Modi Government should stop boasting that India is the pharmacy of the world & instead take strict action as the cough syrups made in India seem to be deadly, as 70 children in Gambia & 18 children in Uzbekistan have died.

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Amit Malviya had responded that the death of 70 children in Gambia had nothing to do with consumption of cough syrups made in India. He even claimed that the Gambian authorities have clarified that the cough syrups are not responsible for the death of Gambian children, in addition to claiming that Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) have also did the same.

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BJP’s Member of Parliament Sudhanshu Trivedi had criticized that Congress does not leave any opportunity to defame India.

However, On 16th December, BBC reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) is standing by its statement that the cough syrups from Maiden Pharmaceuticals were the reason for the death of the children in Gambia and it cited reports from labs in Ghana and Switzerland which found excess levels of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol in the cough syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

Moreover, it was reported, just few days before the news about death of children in Uzbekistan, that a Parliamentary Committee formed in Gambia, to investigate the death of children who were suspected to have died because of the cough syrups made in India, have declared that the Indian firm, Maiden Pharmaceuticals, is culpable.

Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr.Mansukh Mandaviya had tweeted that all manufacturing activities of Marion Biotech, which manufactured the Dok-1 MAKS syrup that allegedly caused the death of 18 children in Uzbekistan, is stopped from the night of 29th December and said that further investigation is going on.

This comes after he tweeted that a joint inspection was carried out by the Uttar Pradesh Drug Control Bureau and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) on 29th December 2022 but there is no official clarification on what sort of violations were found which caused the shutdown of the Noida plant of Marion Biotech.

Just as India is dealing with the health advisory provided by the WHO on 5th October 2022 which directed that the four products made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited, such as Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup, not be used. It has been reported that the company is seeking to reopen their plant after Union Government of India’s lab found the cough syrups to be safe.

World Health Organization (WHO)’s advisory against the use of cough syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals.


Similar incidents of children dying due to the cough syrups were reported in India too, in Uddhampur (2020) and in Delhi (2021). Government responded in similar fashion action of closing down the plant which in which the cough syrup was produced, but it was reported in August 2022 that no concrete action followed.


A photograph shows collected cough syrups in Banjul on October 06, 2022. – Indian authorities are investigating cough syrups made by a local pharmaceutical company after the World Health Organisation said they could be responsible for the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia. (Photo by MILAN BERCKMANS / AFP) (Photo by MILAN BERCKMANS/AFP via Getty Images)

Since similar deaths took place in India too, the deaths of children in Gambia and Uzbekistan may be caused by cough syrups made in India, which needs further investigation in co-operation with Gambian & WHO authorities. Categorically rejecting such a possibility and shutting down the chance for a collaborative investigation and blaming the main opposition party for seeking strict action against the companies, if violations are found, does not seem to be a good look for India in the international stage. The knee jerk reaction some office bearers of the ruling BJP & loose statements from Government authorities, if any, would only damage India’s reputation further.

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Ramasamy Jayaprakash

Ramasamy works as a Senior Sub-Editor at YouTurn and writes articles in Tamil and English. He also makes videos for YouTurn's Tamil & English YouTube channels.
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