Marion Biotech, cough syrup makers linked to Uzbek deaths, halts all production


Marion Biotech – the Noida-based manufacturer of a cough syrup blamed by Uzbekistan authorities for the death of 19 children – has halted production of all medicines, union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted Friday morning. He said action had been taken after a Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) inspection and that “all manufacturing activities… (of the company’s Noida unit) have been stopped yesterday night”.

Hasan Harris, Marion Biotech’s legal head, told news agency ANI: “We await the reports, the factory was inspected. We’ve halted production of all medicines.”

On Thursday Marion Biotech said it had halted production of the Dok-1 Max syrup that Uzbek authorities have blamed for the children’s death in the second-such controversy surrounding India’s pharmaceutical exports; the first involved the export of a cough syrup to The Gambia.

Also yesterday, Mandaviya tweeted: “… samples of the cough syrup have been taken from the manufacturing premises and sent to (the) Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory (in) Chandigarh for testing…” and added “further action will be taken as appropriate”.

Uzbekistan health officals said Wednesday that at least 18 children in their country had died (the 19th died Thursday) after consuming the Dok-1 Max cough syrup that, according to news agency Reuters, contained a toxic substance – ethylene glycol – and was administered in doses higher than prescribed. It is unclear who authorised the high dosages, Reuters added.

The news agency also said seven employees of the Uzbek health ministry had been sacked and ‘disciplinary measures’ initiated against some specialists. The Doc-1 Max medication – both tablet and syrup – have been withdrawn from all pharmacies in that country.

Sales of another Marion Biotech anti-cold syrup – Ambronol – have also been suspended.

Neither, according to media reports at this time, is available for sale in India.

India is known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, and has doubled its pharmaceutical exports over the last decade, touching $24.5 billion in the last fiscal year.

The Uzbekistan case follows deaths of at least 70 children in Gambia that had been linked to cough and cold syrups manufactured by New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Both the Indian government and the company, however, have denied wrongdoing.

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