New Delhi: State prosecutors in Uzbekistan have alleged that distributors of an Indian-manufactured cough syrup that killed 65 children in the country bribed local officials with $33,000 to skip mandatory testing. According to a report in Reuters, this was revealed in court on Wednesday (August 16).
The number of deaths linked to the cough syrup cited by the prosecutors in court – 65 – is far higher than what was previously reported from the country. In December 2022, the country had said that 21 children had fallen sick from taking the cough syrup and 18 of them had died. It is unclear at the moment when these other deaths were reported.
Uzbekistan has put 21 people on trial in the case – 20 locals and one Indian – last week.
The cough syrup in question is ‘Doc-1 Max’, manufactured by the Noida-based company Marion Biotech. Three of the people on trial, according to Reuters, including the one Indian, work for Quramax Medical, a company that sold medicines manufactured by Marion Biotech in Uzbekistan.
Quramax CEO Singh Raghvendra Pratar paid officials at the state centre for expertise and standardisation of medicinal products $33,000 so that they would skip a mandatory inspection of the company’s products, state prosecutor Saidkarim Akilov has alleged. Reuters reported that it is unclear whether this inspection involves testing in Uzbekistan or requests for tests to be done in India.
While Pratar denied the charges in court, he did say he gave the money cited to the officials as “a token of appreciation”.
“Seven of the 21 defendants pleaded guilty to at least some of the charges against them, which included tax evasion, sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines, abuse of office, negligence, forgery, and bribery,” Reuters reported.
In January this year, the World Health Organisation had said that Doc-1 Max and one other cough syrup manufactured by Marion Biotech contained diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG) in unacceptable levels. Three people linked with the firm had been arrested by Indian authorities in March this year after the controversy erupted.