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NEW DELHI : Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government has joined hands with the Centre to support the investigation into Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd’s cough syrups that have been linked to the death of 66 children in Gambia.

In a rare case of cooperation between the rival administrations, Delhi’s department of drugs is assisting the Central Drugs Standard Centre Organization (CDSCO) by deputing its drug inspectors to pick up samples and conduct plant visits. The Centre is leading the investigation and is awaiting a report on samples sent to the Central Drug Laboratory in Kolkata and Chandigarh.

Last week, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued an alert against four cough and cold syrups made by Maiden, saying that it might be linked to the Gambia deaths.

“We are assisting the Central government in all possible way in the inquiry related to Maiden Pharmaceuticals and things are being taken care of. We are working as a team. Our drugs inspectors have joined CDSCO team and they are taking part in the investigation," said a Delhi government official on the condition of anonymity.

“Maiden Pharmaceuticals used to export their items and we are probing how much stock they have, how much has been supplied to other countries. Besides, samples of the cough syrups have been picked and sent for examining to the Central Drug Laboratory in Kolkata and we are awaiting the reports," said Delhi government official.

Queries emailed to the health ministry and Delhi government spokesperson did not elicit any response. Maiden Pharma did not respond to calls and text messages.

As per Maiden Pharmaceuticals’ website, it is a WHO-GMP certified firm with two manufacturing plant in Kundli, Haryana.

On 29 September, the WHO informed the Drugs Controller General of India that it was offering technical assistance to Gambia, where children had died because of medicines suspected to be contaminated with diethylene glycol.

According to initial results received by the WHO, out of the 23 samples tested, four were found to contain diethylene glycol or ethylene glycol.

Dr Raj Kumar, consultant, internal medicine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Delhi, said: “Diethylene Glycol and Ethylene Glycol are used in many cough syrups in permissible quality and quantity. But if used in inadmissible amounts, it makes the composition highly toxic to humans, lead to multiple ailments including failure of central nervous system, acute kidney injury, heart ailments and can even be fatal. Substandard quality and inappropriate testing are major reasons for such lapses that makes final product harmful."


Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Shamra is a health and pharma journalist with nearly nine years of field reporting experience. She is a special correspondent with Mint. Her beat includes covering the Ministry of Health and Department of Pharmaceuticals. She also covers the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Department of Biotechnology.
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