Indonesia begins hearing class-action lawsuit after children’s deaths from cough syrup

pharmafile | January 17, 2023 | News story | Medical Communications  

An Indonesian court has begun proceedings to hear a class-action lawsuit against health and finance ministries, the drugs regulator and at least eight drug companies, from families of around 200 children who have died after taking tainted cough syrup.


Since 2022, about 200 children have died from acute kidney injury caused by cough syrup containing ethylene glycol and diethyelene glycol: ingredients commonly found in antifreeze, brake fluids and other industrial applications.


They are used by pharmaceutical companies as a cheap alternatives to glycerine, a thickening agent used in many cough syrups. However, both ethylene glycol and diethyelene glycol are toxic and can lead to acute kidney injury.


As part of the lawsuit, 25 families are suing, with each demanding compensation of up to 3.4bn rupiah ($224,570.67). However, representatives of the finance ministry and five pharma companies named in the suit did not respond to requests and another three companies were unreachable.


Almost identical cases have been seen in the Gambia in October 2022, where between 60-70 children died from acute kidney injury caused by ethylene glycol and diethyelene glycol in cough syrup manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals and, most recently, in Uzbekistan. On 11 January 2023, WHO issued a Medical Product alert against Ambronol syrup and DOK-1 Max syrup as these products contained the two toxic ingredients, leading to the death of at least 18 children.


James Spargo

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