Gambia cough syrup deaths: 66 children died, police to investigate

Most of the children died of acute kidney failure after ingesting cough syrup with 'unacceptable levels of potentially life-threatening contaminants'.

Police in Gambia on Saturday announced they were launching an investigation into the deaths of dozens of children, amid growing concern over imported medicines and cough syrup.

Following the deaths of 66 children, most from acute kidney failure, police said in a statement they were putting senior officers on the investigation.

The news came a day after President Adama Barrow promised to boost health measures including better quality control over imported medicines, amid mounting concern that imported cough syrups caused the deaths.

“I assure you all that the government will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this incident,” Barrow said Friday.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday issued an alert over four cough and cold syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in India over possible links to the deaths.

Laboratory testing had found unacceptable levels of potentially life-threatening contaminants, the WHO said, adding that the products may have been distributed beyond the West African country.

Health authorities in Gambia had on 23 September ordered a recall of all medicines containing paracetamol or promethazine syrup.

In a statement, Barrow announced a raft of measures to avoid future tragedies, including the creation of “a quality control national laboratory for drugs and food safety”.

He also promised to update the nation’s drugs-related laws to ensure regulation could prevent any such incidents in the future.

He praised the work of the health ministry in preventing further deaths.

“Due to their timely intervention and the support of our partners, the outbreak is now under control, with only two cases reported in the last two weeks.”

© Agence France-Presse

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