WHO urges immediate action after cough syrup deaths

STORY: The World Health Organization has called for "immediate and concerted action" to protect children from contaminated medicines after a spate of child deaths linked to cough syrups last year.

More than 300 children – mostly younger than five - in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan died of acute kidney injury in 2022. These deaths were linked to contaminated medicines, the WHO said on Monday.

These over-the-counter cough syrups had high levels of chemicals that the WHO said “can be fatal even taken in small amounts and should never be found in medicines.”

In addition to the countries above, the WHO said that the Philippines, Timor Leste, Senegal and Cambodia could be impacted because they may have the medicines on sale, too. It called for action across its 194 member states to prevent more deaths.

The companies involved have either denied their products were contaminated or declined to comment while investigations are ongoing.

The WHO also called for more oversight from governments and regulators and for drug manufactures to test their products more thoroughly and keep records of the process.