A critical door-to-door drive has been initiated to remove the medications from every home in the West African nation of the Gambia following a WHO warning that cough syrup made in India may be responsible for the deaths of more than 60 children there.
Director of Health Dr. Mustapha Bittaye while speaking to Associated Press confirmed the wave of child deaths from acute kidney injury, sending shockwaves across the country of 2.4 million people and around the world.
Issuing an alert, the Gambian authorities noted, “Over the last week, we admitted a child with this condition (acute kidney injury) … and she has unfortunately died. We were able to confirm that she had taken one of the drugs that is suspected to be causing this, prior to her arrival at our clinic. It had been bought at a pharmacy within The Gambia.”
“The drug has been identified as containing a significant amount of a toxin which damages kidneys irreversibly.”
Following this, the Ministry of Health has teamed up with the Gambia Red Cross Society and dispatched hundreds of young people to collect the suspect syrups through a house-to-house campaign.
WHO issues statement on the situation in The Gambia
World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued an alarm in response to the deaths. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “WHO has issued a medical product alert for four contaminated medicines identified in The Gambia that have been potentially linked to acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children.”
“The loss of young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families,” he said.
The four medicines are cough and cold syrups produced in India, said the WHO statement.
While the contaminated products have so far only been detected in Gambia, they may have been distributed to other countries, said the statement. WHO is pursuing investigations with the company and regulatory authorities in India, it said.
“WHO recommends all countries detect and remove these products from circulation to prevent further harm to patients,” it said.
In India, the federal regulator and the state regulator of northern Haryana state are conducting an inquiry into the contaminated medicines.
Of the 23 samples tested, four had so far been found to be contaminated and India is waiting for the analysis to be shared with it, said an Indian health official who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak to the media.