WHO issues another alert over DEG in cough syrup

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified another case of a falsified, substandard cough syrup being placed on the market that poses a serious risk to health.

The latest alert – referring to an incident reported in Cameroon – refers to a cold, flu and allergy product called Naturcold that according to its labelling is made by UK company Fraken International – which according to the UK’s medicines regulatory authority does not exist.

The stated active ingredients of the syrup are listed as paracetamol, phenylephrine hydrochloride & chlorpheniramine maleate. A WHO analysis of samples provided by the Cameroon authorities found “unacceptable amounts” of diethylene glycol (DEG), a contaminant that has caused hundreds of fatalities in children in the last couple of years.

DEG was detected in samples of Naturcold at levels as high as 28.6%, way above the acceptable limit for DEG of no more than 0.10%.

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.

“Enquires are still underway to determine the origin of the product,” said the WHO. “Therefore, the stated manufacturer has not provided guarantees to WHO on the safety and quality of these products.”

It continues: “The product referenced in this alert may have marketing authorisations in other countries or regions. It may also have been distributed through informal markets to neighbouring countries.”

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