The death of more than 60 children in Gambia, a tiny nation in West Africa, has triggered global concern. From reports emanating from local media sources as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), the children died due to some form of medicine contamination that led to kidney failure. In the eye of the storm is an Indian drugmaker based out of Haryana – Maiden Pharmaceuticals. 

WHO issued a medical product alert about four cough syrups made by the pharma company recently. Reports say the cough syrups contain diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, both substances considered fatal for the human body. The products identified by WHO are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, MakeOff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup, an Economic Times report says. 

Also Read | Gambia recalls India-made cough syrups blamed for 66 child deaths

Maiden Pharmaceuticals began operations in 1990. The pharma company sells its medicines to African countries, South American nations and parts of South-East Asia. The medicines in question were exported only to Gambia, the Indian government has said in a statement. The drugs sold to Gambia are not sold in India. 

This, however, is not the first time Maiden Pharmaceuticals landed in a soup. The company has a difficult track record in India. Over the last nine years, Kerala and Gujarat have reported six occasions when drugs made by the country were found to be of substandard quality. 

Also Read | WHO probing 4 Indian cough syrups likely linked to 66 children’s deaths in Gambia

Bihar, in 2011, blacklisted the company for supplying substandard drugs. In 2018, an Indian government drug inspector prosecuted Maiden Pharmaceuticals for quality violations under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. A Kerala court fined the company Rs 1,000 for violations in 2005. 

The drugmaker is banned in Vietnam

Immediately after the Gambia deaths were reported, Naresh Kumar Goyal, one of Maiden Pharmaceuticals’ directors, released a statement saying the company is trying to find out from its buyer the details related to the Gambia deaths. 

“We are trying to find out the situation because it cropped up only today morning. We are trying to find out with the buyer and all that what has happened exactly. We are not selling anything in India,” Goyal said.