Indonesian families launch class-action suit over syrup deaths

The families of children in Indonesia who lost their lives as a result of ingesting tainted cough syrup have started a class-action lawsuit against both the national government and the pharmaceutical manufacturers who made the products.

According to a Reuters report, around 200 children in Indonesia have died after being given paracetamol-based syrup containing ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol (DEG), two substances which are well documented in the past to have been introduced as contaminants into syrup-based products.

They tend to appear as contaminants or adulterants of glycerin, an excipient widely used in oral liquid medicines and other products like toothpastes. In some cases, the adulteration with the chemicals – also found in antifreeze and other industrial liquids – is believed to be economically motivated.

The Indonesian fatalities were recorded in the midst of a spate of incidents involving DEG and ethylene glycol in cough syrups, with alerts issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) over deaths in Uzbekistan and Gambia in the last few months.

The products have been linked to 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.

Around 25 families are involved in the class action, which has been filed against the health and finance ministries, Indonesia's drug regulator BPOM, and "at least eight drug companies," says Reuters.

A WHO alert last year identified eight different products suspected of being contaminated, including syrups from PT Konimex, PT Yarindo Farmatama, PT Universal Pharmaceutical Industries, and PT Afi Farma.

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