Jaishankar: Deepest condolences to Gambia over death of children

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A week after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the deaths of at least 66 children in Gambia may be linked to cough syrups made by an Indian drug manufacturer, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Thursday expressed “deepest condolences” to his counterpart in Gambia, Dr Mamadou Tangara.

“In a telecon with Gambian FM Dr Mamadou Tangara, conveyed our deepest condolences on the deaths of young children recently. Underlined that matter is being seriously investigated by appropriate authorities. We agreed to remain in touch,” Jaishankar tweeted.

On Wednesday, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare set up a four-member panel to probe the matter. The drug manufacturer, Sonepat-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals, has also been barred from carrying out any production activities after four inspections by drug control officials found violation of good manufacturing practices and deficiencies in documentation.

The results of tests on control samples — samples from the same batch stored by the manufacturer for quality control – aren’t out yet.

The only statement on the issue so far was issued by the health ministry while announcing the investigation on Wednesday. “It is a usual practice that the importing country tests these imported products on quality parameters, and satisfies itself as to the quality of the products before the importing country decides to release such products for usage in the country,” it said. It also said that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has asked the WHO for a detailed report on the establishment of causal relation of death with the medical products.

“In order to examine and analyse the details of the reports/ adverse events/ certificate of analysis received or to be received from WHO in the instant matter, it has been decided to constitute a committee… The committee will… suitably advise and recommend to the DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) about further course of action,” said the government order.

The committee comprises Vice-Chairperson of the Standing National Committee on Medicines Dr Y K Gupta, Senior Scientist from National Institute of Virology-Pune Dr Pragya Yadav, Additional Director and Head of Epidemiology at National Centre for Disease Control Dr Arti Bahl, and Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation officer A K Pradhan.