23 jailed over Uzbekistan cough syrup deaths

An Uzbekistan court has sentenced 23 people to prison in connection with the deaths of dozens of children linked to contaminated cough syrup, handing out sentences of between two and 20 years.

The prosecution focused on two products – Ambronol syrup and Dok-1 Max syrup – which were both made by Indian drugmaker Marion Biotech and distributed by Quramax Medical in Uzbekistan.  

The products contained diethylene glycol and/or ethylene glycol, contaminants that have been linked to toxic effects that can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert last year suggesting there had been 18 deaths, but prosecutors said the number was 65 at the start of the trial, and added three more during proceedings.

The Tashkent city court also ruled that the families of the 68 children who died will each receive $80,000 in compensation, along with four other children who became disabled after taking the cough syrup.

The defendants faced a litany of charges, including tax evasion, sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines, abuse of office, negligence, forgery, and bribery. The longest sentence was given to Singh Raghvendra Pratar, an executive director at Quramax Medical.

The Indian government has also initiated legal proceedings against Uttar Pradesh-based Marion Biotech, after cancelling its pharmaceutical manufacturing license earlier this year.

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