Indian maker of cough syrup linked to Uzbekistan deaths halts production

India has halted all manufacturing activities of a company whose cough syrup has been linked to the deaths of 19 children in Uzbekistan.

Federal home minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Friday: “Following inspection by @CDSCO_INDIA_INF [Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation] 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.”

The move comes after Uzbekistan’s health ministry said on Thursday that the children consumed cough syrup Doc-1 Max, manufactured by Indian drugmaker Marion Biotech, based out of Noida, located in the northern Uttar Pradesh state on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi.

The ministry said that while the company’s website described the cough syrup treatment for cold and flu symptoms, it was given to children without a doctor’s prescription and on the suggestion of the local pharmacists, with doses exceeding that advised for children.

18 out of 21 children who took the syrup while suffering from an acute respiratory disease died after consuming it.

Later on Thursday the ministry reported the 19th victim with the death of a one-year-old child.

The lab tests found that a batch of the syrup contained ethylene glycol, a toxic substance in the preparation.

The halting of the cough syrup production was also confirmed by Marion Biotech’s legal head to ANI.

Hasan Harris said to the news agency: “We await the reports, the factory was inspected. We’ve halted production of all medicines.”

Also on Thursday, India’s federal external affairs ministry (MEA) said the Uzbek authorities have not formally taken up the matter with New Delhi.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that “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.”

Federal government officials also said to news agency PTI that the cough syrup was not sold in India and was only being exported to Uzbekistan.

Earlier this year four made-in-India syrups were linked to the deaths of 66 children in Gambia.

In a letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) India said that its cough syrups were “prematurely” linked to the deaths of children which “adversely impacted” the image of the country’s pharma industry.