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Uzbekistan Cough Syrup Deaths: Noida Firm's Manufacturing Activities Stopped, Says Health Min

Neither CDSCO nor the Union health ministry under Mansukh Mandaviya have spoken on the nature of violations that were found during inspection, which led to the decision to halt production at the Noida unit.

New Delhi: Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has announced that following an inspection by India’s apex drugs regulating body, manufacturing activities of Marion Biotech’s Noida unit were stopped. A day ago, Uzbek authorities had announced that consumption of a cough syrup produced by the company had led to the deaths of 18 children in the country.

Marion Biotech is a licensed manufacturer and holds the license for manufacturing the Dok1 Max syrup and tablet for export purposes. This licence is granted by the Drugs Controller, Uttar Pradesh.

“Following inspection by @CDSCO_INDIA_INF team in view of reports of contamination in cough syrup Dok1 Max, all manufacturing activities of Marion Biotech at NOIDA unit have been stopped yesterday night, while further investigation is ongoing,” Mandaviya tweeted today, December 30.

Neither the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation nor the Union health ministry under Mandaviya have spoken on the nature of violations that were found during inspection, which led to the decision to halt production at the Noida unit.

A day ago Mandaviya had announced that samples of the cough syrup had been taken from the manufacturing premises and sent to the Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory in Chandigarh for testing.

Last night, the external affairs ministry announced that India is in touch with Uzbek authorities and has sought details of the investigation carried out by them.

The Indian embassy in Tashkent also issued a statement on the matter and said it has maintained contacts with the Agency on Development of Pharmaceutical Industry and has requested it to share its investigation reports with the Indian side “so that necessary action may also be taken in India”.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said consular assistance is being provided to some linked to the company who are facing legal action there.

Bagchi also noted that the Uzbek authorities have not formally taken up the matter with New Delhi.

“Nevertheless, our embassy has contacted the Uzbek side and is seeking further details of their investigation … We understand that legal action has been initiated by the Uzbek authorities against some people, including the local representative of the company there”.

“And in that context, we are extending necessary consular assistance to those individuals or individual,” he said during a media briefing.

As per the Uzbek authorities, the deaths appeared to have taken place over a period of two months, he said.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council, or Pharmexcil, which is part of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, on Friday suspended the membership of Marion Biotech, for failing to provide the necessary information to the council, the Economic Times reported.

This means that the pharma company’s exports will be ineligible to access benefits under the government’s Market Access Initiative Scheme.

This is the second instance in quick succession in which an Indian-made cough syrup has been accused of causing deaths.

In October, the WHO issued an alert against four cough syrups manufactured by the Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals in connection with the death of nearly 70 children in the Gambia.

While the CDSCO gave the company a clean chit, a report commission by the WHO found DEG contamination in the range of 1.0%-21.30% weight/volume. A Gambian parliamentary committee probe also held the company liable for the deaths.

Responding to a question on the ‘similar incident’ in Gambia, Bagchi said he was “hesitant to term it as a similar incident or not”.

“There are proper investigative mechanisms to find out what happened. Each incident would be different … I think the health authorities are the experts on what the investigation process is,” the spokesperson said.

(With PTI inputs)