Trial starts in Uzbekistan over child cough syrup deaths

A trial has started in Uzbekistan in connection with the deaths last year of children linked to contaminated cough syrup products.

The complaint cites 65 cases thought to have been caused by substandard cough syrup products containing diethylene glycol and/or ethylene glycol, much higher than the 18 cases cited in a World Health Organisation (WHO) alert on the incident published at the start of this year.

The alert focused on two products – Ambronol syrup and Dok-1 Max syrup – which are both made by Indian drugmaker Marion Biotech.

The trial is focusing on 21 defendants, who are all Uzbek citizens according to a Reuters report. Those facing charges are all former senior officials who were in charge of licensing imported medicines and executives of a private company that imported and distributed them.

They face a litany of charges, including tax evasion, sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines, abuse of office, negligence, forgery, and bribery.

The Indian government has also initiated legal proceedings against Uttar Pradesh-based Marion Biotech, after cancelling its pharmaceutical manufacturing license earlier this year. Sale of Dok-1 Max was formally banned at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, there have been other cases of DEG-contaminated products being sold to unsuspecting consumers in recent months, including one in Cameroon involving a cough syrup called Naturcold that was labelled as being made by a fictitious UK company.

Last October, the WHO issued a global alert that linked four cough syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals to the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia.

DEG-laced products 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.

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