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Families of Children in Cough Syrup-Linked Deaths Were Offered $285 in Compensation


  • Seventy children died in Gambia, and their deaths have been linked to contaminated cough syrup.
  • The victims’ families were offered a combined $20,000 in compensation, or about $285 per victim.
  • The families have rejected the money, saying it was “an insult to the victims,” per the BBC.

The families of 70 deceased Gambian children — whose deaths are believed to be linked to consuming cough syrup imported from India — were offered a combined $20,000 in compensation, the BBC reported. This amounts to about $285 per victim.

Ebrima Sanyang, the chairperson of the grieving families, told the BBC the money was “an insult to the victims,” and the families have rejected the offer. Taking the money would mean that they were not fighting for justice for their children, he said.

The West African state is probing a slew of child deaths that have occurred over the past months, Adama Barrow, the president of Gambia, said in a statement in early October.

Beginning in July, the country’s Ministry of Health “detected an unusual rise in the number of cases of diarrhea and vomiting among children under the age of five,” Barrow said. Many of those children would go on to develop Acute Kidney Injuries, or AKI’s, that resulted in their deaths.

Preliminary investigations indicate that the deaths are linked to the consumption of four cough syrups that were made in India, the Gambian police said in a report in mid-October, per Reuters.

The World Health Organization, or WHO, is working with the Gambian government in the investigation. The organization issued a health alert after it found the four cough products contain “unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants.”

According to the WHO statement, consumption of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol can prove fatal. Effects include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and “acute kidney injury which may lead to death.”

The organization listed India-based company Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited as the manufacturer. Maiden Pharmaceuticals did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India released a statement saying that while the four drugs Maiden Pharmaceuticals produced “are not licensed for manufacture and sale in India,” the company has permission to manufacture them “for export only.”

Since October, 41,500 out of 50,000 bottles of contaminated cough syrup have been recalled, but the rest are still unaccounted for, the Gambian police told The New York Times in early November.

The country’s Medicines Control Agency — a national regulatory institution — has not been able to definitively conclude that the cough syrups were the culprit, Tijan Jallow, an official, said at a news conference on October 31, per Reuters. The country is still in the process of trying to establish what each child took, he added. 

The Medicines Control Agency and the Gambian police did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.


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