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Gambia Goes After India Pharma

FILE - Cough syrup is displayed at a pharmacy. Taken May 18, 2006
FILE - Cough syrup is displayed at a pharmacy. Taken May 18, 2006

A Gambian parliamentary committee on Tuesday recommended that an Indian pharmaceutical company be banned and prosecuted over the deaths of at least 70 children from acute kidney failure.

"The government should pursue legal action against Maiden Pharmaceuticals for exporting contaminated drugs to The Gambia," the select committee, set up in October, said in its report.

The Gambian parliamentary committee recommended on Tuesday that the country's medicines control agency (MCA) "blacklist Maiden Pharmaceuticals products and ban all their products in the Gambian market".

Scientific investigation is ongoing into the cause of the deaths of children who suffered acute kidney injuries, the committee said.

Nevertheless, it said it was convinced that "Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is culpable and should be held accountable for exporting the contaminated medicines that was linked to the death of at least 70 children in The Gambia 2022."

Gambia has already recalled all cough and cold syrups in circulation in the country as well as all pharmaceutical products manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, whose production plant in India has been shut down.

Gambian health authorities had last month ordered a first recall of all medicines containing paracetamol or promethazine syrup.

Maiden Pharmaceuticals director Naresh Goyal has reportedly denied the deaths were caused by cough syrups produced at his company.

According to the UN health agency, the drugs in question were found to contain "unacceptable" amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are commonly used as antifreeze and can be fatal if ingested.

The parliamentary report also recommended that the bereaved families should receive compensation

The World Health Organization in October issued an alert over four cough and cold syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, based in northern India.

Laboratory testing found unacceptable levels of potentially life-threatening contaminants, the WHO said, adding that the products may have been distributed beyond the West African country of Gambia.