Health, Human Rights

Dr. Samateh Explains How They Establish The Link Between The Pathology & Cough Syrups

In what can be described as an anatomy of the country’s health sector, Gambia’s Minister of Health, Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, has on Wednesday described how health experts were able to establish the link between the pathology developed by the affected kids and India-made cough syrups.

“As the clinical correlation between children taking the medications and the worsening of their symptoms and the development of AKI became more suggestive, the incident management committee advised for the suspension of the use of paracetamol syrup in the country,” he said in a marathon statement delivered before lawmakers at the special session on Acute Kidney Injury (AKI).

The first case of AKI was reported in July 2022, prompting health authorities to put up measures to fight the desease. However, they were confronted with a major hurdle as they couldn’t understand the causality – the relation of cause and effect.

According to him, the India-made syrup “was the main suspected drug because of the historical knowledge and the fact that about 80% of the affected children at the time had consumed paracetamol syrup.”

He then added they took another important decision that led to “the suspension of promethazine syrup as well.”

This move, he went on, was even criticized by many people saying that we did not have enough evidence to do so. But he was quick to add: “It however proved to be a good decision. Some further drug samples were sent to Ghana for analysis.”

As health experts started having a clear picture of the AKI crisis, the preliminary results from Ghana vindicated them as “out of the nine samples one paracetamol and one promethazine syrup were found to have contaminants.”

“This was followed by the instruction from the Medicines Control Agency to quarantine all these products in the pharmacies and warehouses,” he remarked.

Dr Samateh also explained that “further analysis of the samples in Switzerland indicated that fourof the medication had high levels of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol (Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, Magrib N Cold Syrup, Kofexmalin baby Cough Syrup and Proethazine Oral Solution).”

At this juncture, health authorities have no doubt that these glycols were having a devastating effects on the health of the affected children.

“These were industrial chemicals that are toxic to the human beings. They are used in car antifreeze systems and brake fluids,” he said.

Gambia’s Health Minister clearly stated that “the presence of these compounds in the medications is a gross violation of good manufacturing practice (GMP). These syrups were manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in India and were imported by Atlantic Pharmaceutical Company to The Gambia.”

Working against the clock, health authorities later came up with a salutary alternative that consists of embarking on “a massive withdrawal exercise of these drugs was commenced including household recallof all syrups.”

In fine, he outlined that up to “50,000 bottles of the contaminated syrups were imported and 42,173were collected through the recall exercise” spearheaded by Red Cross volunteers.

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