Indian maker of syrup linked to Uzbekistan deaths halts production, facility inspected

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India’s drug regulator said on Thursday that it had inspected Marion Biotech’s production facility and promised more action based on the probe report after the company’s cough syrup was linked to the death of 18 children in Uzbekistan.

A legal representative of Marion Biotech says the Indian maker of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics regretted the deaths and the company has halted production of the Dok-1 Max syrup.

The drug regulator reviewed the company’s Noida facility in the Uttar Pradesh state and is in regular touch with its Uzbekistan counterpart, the Indian health ministry says in a statement.

“The samples of the cough syrup have been taken from the manufacturing premises and sent to Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory, Chandigarh for testing,” the ministry says.

Uzbekistan’s health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 18 children in the country died after consuming the syrup, manufactured by the Indian drug maker.

The syrup contained a toxic substance, ethylene glycol, and was administered in doses higher than the standard dose for children either by their parents, who mistook it for an anti-cold remedy, or on the advice of pharmacists, the Uzbekistan ministry says.

Seven employees were dismissed by the Uzbek ministry following a probe into the matter, and “disciplinary measures” were taken against some specialists. The Doc-1 Max tablets and syrups have also been withdrawn from all pharmacies, the ministry adds.

The incident follows another similar one in Gambia, where the deaths of at least 70 children had been linked to cough and cold syrups manufactured by New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The Indian government and also the company, however, have since denied the allegations.

India is known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ and has doubled its pharmaceutical exports over the last decade, touching $24.5 billion in the last fiscal year.