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India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals Denies Bribery and Tampering Allegations in Cough Syrup Deaths Investigation

India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals, whose cough syrups have been linked to the deaths of children in Gambia, on Saturday, 23 December 2023, denied tampering with test samples or bribing officials during the investigation at the Indian government laboratory as alleged in a complaint under investigation with Gagandeep Singh, an investigator with the state of Haryana’s Food and Drug Administration.

The company’s founder, Naresh Kumar Goyal, stated that there is no evidence against them and that they have not given bribes. 

“I have never changed the sample, there is no evidence and no proof against us. I have not given a bribe.” he stated, as reported by Reuters. He further went on to say that a competing company was responsible for the complaints received by the local health officials. 

Here is a little back story:

In July 2022, a tragedy unfolded at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Gambia, where over 20 children were admitted with kidney failure, and despite receiving dialysis, nearly all of them passed away.

The hospital staff, including veteran consultant paediatrician Vivian Muoneke, were shocked and scared by the unprecedented situation. Initially, health officials suspected that the cause of the deaths was due to contaminated water due to the rainy season, but Muoneke and her colleagues believed the children had been poisoned. 

Three months later, it was revealed that more than 70 Gambian children had died from Acute Kidney Injury linked to cough syrups made in India and contaminated with toxic substances—ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG). Further, this toxin-containing syrup had been sold in bottles wrongly labelled as WHO-approved. As reported by Reuters, this marked the deadliest total poisoning recorded from toxins that have been known to scientists for years.

Following investigations aided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the authorities linked the manufacturers of this cough syrup responsible for the death of 70 Gambian children to Maidens Pharmaceuticals (Haryana, India). However, the Indian Government denied this claim as subsequent investigations at an Indian government laboratory proved that the syrup was not toxic.  

Complaints were lodged with the local health officials that the company’s founder, Naresh Kumar Goyal, had allegedly bribed the state’s drug regulator, Manmohan Taneja, to switch samples before they were transported to an Indian government laboratory in exchange for a bribe of 50 million Indian rupees ($600,000). And this has sparked Goyal’s denial in response to the allegations.

The investigation is ongoing, and the company’s factory, which was closed in October 2022 following the incident at Gambia, is now under renovation. According to reports, the Indian government is in no hurry to reopen the pharmaceutical factories, including Maiden’s factory, linked to nearly 141 deaths in Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Cameroon, and a decision to reopen them is not likely before the country’s next general election.

 

 

 

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