WHO to Help ID Toxic Levels in Confiscated Cough Syrups

The Ministry of Health is seeking help from WHO to identify the levels of toxic substances found in recalled contaminated cough syrups that have killed more than 300 children globally
People buy medicines at a pharmacy in Phnom Penh, January 24, 2023. Kiripost/Siv Channa
People buy medicines at a pharmacy in Phnom Penh, January 24, 2023. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The Ministry of Health is seeking help from WHO to check the levels of potentially lethal contaminants in cough syrups it confiscated after the organization urged nations worldwide to recall medicines that have killed more than 300 children.

Or Vandine, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said on Thursday after receiving information from WHO, the Ministry issued an urgent call for people to avoid using two types of a cough syrup (Ambromol and Quramax).

However, she added that the syrups in Cambodia contain low numbers of the deadly contaminants that WHO announced.

“Even the low number is not the same as what the health organization publishes. The Ministry also complied with the law on the administration of this medicine to ensure safe use. The Ministry has already taken measures and we are working closely with WHO,” she said.

She added that the Ministry had previously announced that Quramax Pharmaceutical import- export (Cambodia) Limited, which imports and distributes this type of cough medicine, must recall them from all pharmaceutical companies it had supplied them to in Cambodia.

In addition, public and private hospitals, clinics, consulting and treatment rooms, all other health services and the public, were ordered to stop using the drugs from January 12. All pharmaceutical establishments were also told to stop selling the two cough syrups.

“The Ministry is doing this work and now we have collected the medicine back and asked WHO to help in technical specifications for the most thorough examination of the medicine we collect, whether the medicine has the same problem as the announcement of WHO or not,” Vandine said.

On January 11, WHO urgently called for an over-the-counter cough syrup that has already caused more than 300 deaths worldwide to be pulled from shelves. The organization is calling on all countries worldwide to detect and remove all contaminated medicine from the market and notify WHO if any contaminants are found.

WHO is now urging governments globally to remove any substandard medical products it has identified in its medical alerts from circulation and increase market surveillance to stamp out potentially lethal medicine.

On January 12, the Ministry of Health published a press release about the pharmaceutical importers, pharmaceutical companies, vendors and citizens warning that Ambronol Syrup has been found to contain the active ingredient Ambroxol Hydrochloride I5mg / 5ml manufactured by MARION BIOTECH PVT. LTD contains volumes of chemicals Diethylene Glycol and Ethylene Glycol above the standard level of pharmaceutical rules.

The statement added that excess of the standard can cause serious harm to children, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty urinating, headache, mood swings, and may also cause acute renal failure, which can be fatal.