Execs at Indonesian cough syrup firm jailed after deaths

The chief executive of Indonesia’s Afi Farma has been sentenced to prison, along with three other senior executives, for their role in the poisoning incident that caused more than 200 child deaths since 2022.

CEO Arief Prasetya Harahap and the three other defendants were all sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1bn Indonesian rupiah (around $63,000), significantly shorter terms than the nine and seven years, respectively, that had been sought by prosecutors. They are considering an appeal, according to local media reports.

The children died after being given paracetamol-based syrup produced by Afi Farma containing ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG), substances that are known adulterants of excipients like glycerin or propylene glycol which are used in liquid medicines and other products like toothpaste.

In this case, the cause is suspected of being two batches of propylene glycol that were in fact almost entirely EG, a chemical that is also found in antifreeze and other industrial liquids like brake fluid. The company’s counsel has argued that it was not at fault as it relied on quality certificates provided by the supplier and is not required under Indonesian law to test batches itself,

EG and DEG are known to cause toxic effects can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury which may lead to death.

There have been several other cases of contaminated cough syrup products being sold to unsuspecting consumers in the last coupe, of years, including an incident linked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to an estimated 141 deaths among children in Uzbekistan, Gambia and Cameroon.

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