The Uzbekistan government has alleged that 18 children have died in the central Asian nation following the consumption of a cough syrup produced by an Indian pharmaceutical firm Marion Biotech.
"To date, 18 out of 21 children with acute respiratory disease have died as a result of taking Doc-1 Max syrup manufactured by the Indian company Marion Biotech Pvt Ltd," the Uzbekistan Health Ministry said in a statement.
"It was found that the deceased children, before admission to hospital treatment, took this drug at home for 2-7 days 3-4 times a day, 2.5-5 ml, which exceeds the standard dose of the drug for children."
The Union Health Ministry sources didn't respond to DH's queries on the incident. Still, they maintained that a file was placed before Health Minister Manuskh Mandaviya, who also heads the Department of Pharmaceuticals as the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers. Noida-based Marion Biotech also didn't respond to phone calls.
The press statement from the Uzbekistan Health Ministry identifies two factors behind the tragedy -- excess doses of the medicine in kids who don't require the drug and contamination of ethylene glycol -- one of the two toxic chemicals found in the Gambian case.
"All children were given the drug without a doctor's prescription. Since the main component of the drug is paracetamol, Doc-1 Max syrup was incorrectly used by parents as an anti-cold remedy on their own or the recommendation of pharmacy sellers. This was the reason for the deterioration of the condition of patients," the Uzbek Ministry said.
"Preliminary laboratory studies have shown that this series of Doc-1 Max syrup contains ethylene glycol. This substance is toxic, and about 1-2 ml/kg of a 95% concentrated solution can cause serious changes in the patient's health, such as vomiting, fainting, convulsions, cardiovascular problems and acute kidney failure," Uzbekistan authorities said.
The World Health Organisation in October flagged the presence of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol as toxic contaminants in four cough syrup samples (made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, Haryana) that are reportedly linked to the deaths of 70 children in The Gambia. But this was not the first time EG and DEG were found in cough syrups made in India, as there have been many similar cases in the past with fatal consequences.
Meanwhile, a team of central agencies and the Uttar Pradesh drug department on Thursday carried out an inspection at the Noida office of the pharmaceutical firm.
Marion Biotech, does not sell the cough syrup, 'Doc-1 Max', in India and its only export has been to Uzbekistan, a state government official said.