Contaminated cough syrup made in India found in Western Pacific: WHO

Contaminated cough syrup made by an Indian company has been found in the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday, after a spate of child deaths linked to similar syrups in some countries last year.

The WHO statement did not say whether any children in the Marshall Islands or Micronesia had fallen sick.

But it said samples from a batch of imported cough syrup, with the product name Guaifenesin syrup TG syrup, was contaminated with unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal.

The stated manufacturer of the medicines was India’s QP Pharmachem Ltd, based in northern Punjab state, and the marketer of the product was Trillium Pharma, in neighbouring Haryana state, the WHO said.

Samples from the suspect batch were analysed after being reported to WHO on 06 April, it added.

QP Pharmachem’s Managing Director on Tuesday said the company took the Indian government’s permission to export 18,000 syrup bottles only to Cambodia. The syrup was also distributed in India, he said, adding that no complaints had been received so far.

Trillium Pharma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither QP Pharmachem nor Trillium have provided guarantees to WHO on the safety and quality of these products, it said in the statement.

In January, the WHO called for immediate action to protect children from contaminated medicines after a spate of child deaths linked to cough syrups last year. In 2022, more than 300 children – mainly aged under 5 – in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died of acute kidney injury, in deaths that were associated with contaminated medicines.