The decision to halt production in the company comes after an investigation began earlier this month after multiple children died having consumed a cough syrup the company exports only to the Gambia. The Gambian government probed an investigation after noticing an increase in acute kidney injuries in children under five as of late July. By August, 28 had died.
Sixty-six children were declared deceased on 5 October due to kidney injuries sustained from the contaminated cough syrup. WHO responded with a medical product alert informing regulators to remove the company’s products off the shelves, including their Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup. WHO’s lab test results reported obscene and toxic amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in the medicine.
Indian authorities inspected the company’s main factory and found that they’d contravened multiple codes.
“In view of the seriousness of the contraventions observed during the investigation and its potential risk to the quality, safety, and efficacy of the drug being produced, all the manufacturing activities of the firm is being stopped with immediate effect,” an order by federal and Haryana state drug regulators stipulated. The order further stated that this specific batch of contaminated syrups was exported to the Gambia in December 2021 with a use-by date of November 2024.
“Maiden executive Naresh Kumar Goyal declined to comment. He told Reuters news agency last week the company was trying to find out from its buyer what had happened in The Gambia,” Aljazeera reported. More reports reveal that “Maiden did not perform quality testing of propylene glycol, diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, while certain batches of propylene glycol did not have the manufacturing and expiry dates.”
Rights activist Madi Jobarteh points the finger at the government for its negligence and for letting the situation worsen before taking action.
“It took Gambian authorities four days to link the suspicious deaths to kidney injuries after blood samples were sent to neighbouring Senegal,” states DW. The Gambia, much like many African countries, lacks the facilities required to carry out various medical necessities.
“The Gambia does not have testing equipment available to detect such cases. Doctors instead treated the children for malaria, asthma, and meningitis.”
Gambians have expressed displeasure with President Adama Barrow’s insensitive attitude towards the crisis. In a televised address, he likened the situation to the country’s infant mortality from the previous year.
“I believe that the president’s address to Gambians should have been an assurance of commitment and will … [he] owed [it] to Gambians to take full responsibility of his government’s act of negligence [which] caus[ed] the death of at least 66 children,” commented Lamin Fatty, the national coordinator of CPA.
India is well known for being the hub of affordable pharmaceutical products. However, the crisis in the Gambia has proven that affordability comes at a price. Maiden’s shady dealings have cost a disturbingly significant amount of children their lives. As a result, the Indian government has created a committee of experts that will advise further action.