Gambia attributes 70 infant deaths to Indian cough syrups

A government task force in The Gambia revealed on Friday that at least 70 children died from kidney failure last year, attributing the deaths to four cough syrups that were imported from India.

Health Minister Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh at a press conference acknowledged failings in regulatory and import checks of the medication, starting with the products not being registered with The Gambia’s Medical Control Agency (MCA).

The head of The Gambia’s Medical Control Agency (MCA) has been dismissed said the health minister and also placed responsibility on the supervising pharmacist for authorizing the drugs’ import without adequate background checks.

Starting in September last year, The Gambia initiated a recall of various cough and cold medications, along with all products produced by the Indian laboratory Maiden Pharmaceuticals, the source of the adulterated syrups.

This move came after the deaths of at least 70 infants were linked to the consumption of the cough syrups.

It subsequently banned all products from the Indian firm.

Based on lab tests conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), “unacceptable amounts” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are commonly used as antifreeze and can be fatal when ingested, were detected in the cough syrups.

The toxic impact from these substances includes “acute kidney injury which may lead to death,” the agency has said.

Health Minister Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh also stated that the task force recommended several improvements to The Gambia’s medical system, which included the establishment of a school of pharmacy and the implementation of stricter regulations on drugs.

Following the health scandal, India initiated an investigation and subsequently closed down the Maiden Pharmaceuticals plant in October.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call for “immediate and coordinated action” to eradicate non-compliant and falsified medicines, specifically highlighting tainted cough syrups that have been linked to the deaths of 300 children in The Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan.

Scroll to Top