The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged “immediate and concerted action” against contaminated medicines. The development comes after several child deaths linked to cough syrups were reported in 2022.
In a statement on Monday, the WHO said more than 300 children, mostly under 5 – in Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan died of acute kidney injury, deaths that were associated with contaminated medicines. The medicines, over-the-counter cough syrups, had high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
The UN health agency also said that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal, and Cambodia may potentially be impacted because they may have the medicines on sale. Further, it called for action across its 194 member states to prevent more deaths.
“Since these are not isolated incidents, WHO calls on various key stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action,” WHO said.
WHO ISSUES 3 GLOBAL MEDICAL ALERTS
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 (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG).
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. Based on country reports, WHO has issued three global medical alerts addressing these incidents.
The WHO has called on the regulators and governments to –
detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets and substandard medical products that have been identified in the WHO medical alerts referred to above as potential causes of death and disease
ensure that all medical products in their respective markets are approved for sale by competent authorities and obtainable from authorized/licensed suppliers
assign appropriate resources to improve and increase risk-based inspections of manufacturing sites within their jurisdiction in accordance with international norms and standards
increase market surveillance including risk-based targeted testing for medical products released in their respective markets, including informal markets