Bad science or medical practices: Who’s really responsible for the Gambia cough syrup deaths?

The unfortunate, and preventable, deaths of around 70 children in the impoverished West African nation are largely attributable to poor drug regulation in India.

Around 70 children have died in the Gambia after consuming cough syrup tainted with diethylene glycol, or DEG. The four implicated products—Promethazine oral solution, Kofexmalin and Makoff baby cough syrups, and Magrip N cold syrup—were manufactured in India by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, which failed to provide safety guarantees for the medicines.

DEG is particularly lethal to human beings. An estimated 1-1.63 gm per kg of body mass can be fatal—i.e., as little as one-thousandth of your weight. DEG poisoning typically occurs in three phases. In the first phase, which begins immediately after ingestion, the patient experiences gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting …


Cyriac Abby Philips

Cyriac Abby Philips is a highly cited, acclaimed and award-winning liver disease specialist and clinician-scientist based at The Liver Institute, Rajagiri Hospital, Kochi. His seminal research includes the introduction of healthy donor stool transplant for patients battling severe alcohol-related liver disease. He has also authored disruptive peer-reviewed publications on Ayush-related liver injury and herbal and dietary supplements.