The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a stark warning to countries worldwide, urging them to take swift action to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of substandard and falsified medical products.
The WHO has been made aware of several incidents of over-the-counter cough syrups for children that have been contaminated with high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
These contaminants are toxic chemicals that are commonly used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents. They can be fatal, even in small amounts and should never be found in medicines.
The WHO has reported that these incidents have occurred in at least seven countries, resulting in more than 300 fatalities, the majority of which were young children under the age of five.
In response to these alarming developments, the WHO has issued three global medical alerts addressing these incidents.
The first alert, Medical Product Alert N°6/2022, was issued on October 5, 2022, and focused on the outbreak in the Gambia.
The second alert, Medical Product Alert N°7/2022, was issued on November 6, 2022, and focused on Indonesia.
The third alert, Medical Product Alert No1/2023, was issued on January 11, 2023, and focused on Uzbekistan.
The WHO has made it clear that these are not isolated incidents and has urged all stakeholders engaged in the medical supply chain to take immediate and coordinated action.
The agency has called on regulators and governments to “detect and remove from circulation in their respective markets any substandard medical product that has been identified in the WHO medical alerts referred to above as potential causes of deaths and disease”.
This is a deeply concerning development and one that highlights the urgent need for greater vigilance and stricter regulations to ensure the safety of medical products.
The WHO’s call to action serves as a reminder of the importance of ensuring that the medicines we take are safe and free from contamination.