India’s drug problem: Why WHO’s alert over Indian medicines in Gambia should not be ignored

Source: The post is based on an article India’s drug problem: Why WHO’s alert over Indian medicines in Gambia should not be ignored” published in The Indian Express on 10th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3

Relevance: low quality cough syrups in India and issues associated with it

News: Cough syrups manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals has caused the deaths of 66 children in Gambia.

This has led Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and state authorities to investigate into cough syrups.

What are the findings of the WHO?

WHO said that its laboratory analysis of samples of these syrups have revealed the presence of unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

These chemicals are toxic to humans, and can result in abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, and altered mental state. It can also lead to acute kidney injury that can prove fatal in children.

India stopped the use of cough syrups that contained these toxins after 17 children died in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the initial inquiries have revealed that Maiden Pharmaceuticals manufactured the cough syrups only for export to Gambia.

What led to the manufacture of the cough syrups even though they were stopped by the government?

The Drugs and Cosmetic Act, 1940 says that the state authorities are responsible for monitoring the manufacture and sale of drugs. While CDSCO is responsible for laying down standards and providing expert advice to regulators in the states.

However, after the tragedy of Jammu and Kashmir there is very little information shared between the state and the centre.

Moreover, drugs that fail quality tests in one state continue to be sold in others due to the lack of binding mechanism to recall of such medicines.

What are the concerns associated with the low quality of drugs?

According to a CDSCO survey in 2014-2016, about five per cent of Indian drugs mostly manufactured by large pharma companies failed the quality test.

There has also been quality concern raised by national and international observers over the pharmaceutical products of India and many have been rejected for the quality.

Therefore, there is a need for the pharma industry to set up mechanisms for cooperation on quality control amongst firms.

Moreover. the situation like that of Gambia can harm India’s hard-earned reputation of being the pharmacy of the Third World.

Print Friendly and PDF