WHO calls for immediate withdrawal from sale

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Three months after opening an investigation into syrups suspected of having caused dozens of deaths, the World Health Organization is calling for immediate action by all States to ensure that these adulterated drugs are withdrawn from the market.

With our correspondent in Geneva, Jeremiah Lance

Last October, the WHO opened an investigation into cough syrups manufactured in India and suspected of having caused the deaths of dozens of children in The Gambia. The victims now number in the hundreds and mainly, in addition to Gambia, in Indonesia and Uzbekistan.

But the offending syrups could also be traded in East Timor, the Philippines, Cambodia and Senegal. In question, the presence in the products of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol. Two toxic products used as solvent and antifreeze agent. Ingesting them, even in small quantities, can be fatal.

« What we are asking is that all countries take a very close look at what is circulating in their country. We talk about the health of the little ones, warns WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris, who asks all states to be extra vigilant. In most cases, these are children under 5 years old who are given these syrups. We know that there are already 300 dead. It is a dramatic situation and we must do everything so that there are no other victims. ».

The offending drugs are manufactured by Indian and Indonesian companies. Were they contaminated by mistake or was it a deliberate attempt at fraud? The WHO does not want to comment for the moment. But she admits that these are not isolated incidents and that diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol should never end up in a drug.

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