Sahpra cautions SA consumers from administering ‘toxic’ baby cough medicine following Gambia child deaths


Several products have been found containing unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are toxic chemicals and can prove fatal to children. As a result, 33 children have died in The Gambia, with the death toll rising to 66.

Among the medicines, which include cough and cold syrups produced by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited in India, the World Health Organization (WHO) recalled Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup for safety reasons.

The WHO conducted laboratory tests that linked the medication to those deaths.

The organisation says that the contaminated products may have been distributed to other countries, though the contamination has so far been detected only in The Gambia.

As reported by Africanews, the Ministry of Health has teamed up with the Gambia Red Cross Society to collect suspect syrups by going door-to-door.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Diethylene glycol (DEG) is used in antifreeze, brake fluids, cosmetics, lubricants, and other commercially available products. When consumed, it causes renal insufficiency and failure, peripheral neuropathy, encephalopathy, coma, and even death.

The World Health Organization conducted laboratory tests that linked the medication to the children’s deaths. Picture: Towfiqu barbhuiya/unsplash

A statement from the Gambia’s Medical Research Council confirmed that a child died after being admitted to the hospital with acute kidney injury.

“We were able to confirm that she had taken one of the drugs suspected of causing this before arriving at our clinic. It had been purchased from a pharmacy in The Gambia,” the council said.

“The drug has been identified as containing a significant amount of a toxin which damages kidneys irreversibly.”

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The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) cautions consumers that if they come across any of these products, they should not consume them or administer them to children.

They are encouraged to contact Sahpra’s Regulatory Compliance unit by emailing [email protected] or phoning 012 015 5434.

“Sahpra’s mandate is to ensure that the public has access to quality, safe and effective health products. The safety of the public is of paramount importance. Our Regulatory Compliance unit will work with law enforcement agencies to eradicate any substandard and falsified health products,” Sahpra CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said.



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