WHO urges ‘immediate action’ after cough syrup deaths

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LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization has called for “immediate and concerted action” to protect children from contaminated medicines following a spate of child deaths from cough syrups last year.

In 2022, more than 300 children – mainly under age 5 – in The Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died from acute kidney injury, deaths linked to contaminated medicines, the WHO said in a statement Monday.

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The medications, over-the-counter cough syrups, contain high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

“These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreezes that can be fatal even in small amounts and should never be found in medicines,” the WHO said.

It said seven countries had reported finding the contaminated syrups in the past four months and called for action in the 194 member states to prevent more deaths.

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“As these are not isolated incidents, WHO is calling on several key stakeholders in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action,” the WHO said.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby Editing by Mark Heinrich and Christina Fincher)

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