Gambia has announced stricter regulations for pharmaceutical products imported from India following the deaths of numerous children caused by Indian-made cough syrups.
According to government documents reviewed by Reuters, starting from July 1, all pharmaceutical products from India will be required to undergo inspection and testing before shipment.
The move by Gambia reflects a growing trend among governments to reassess their reliance on India’s $42 billion pharmaceutical industry since the contamination scandal emerged last year.
India currently supplies almost half of the pharmaceuticals used in Africa. In response to the crisis, Indian government officials held meetings in Africa to ensure the continued export of safe drugs after at least 70 children died in Gambia from consuming the tainted cough syrup.
The executive director of Gambia’s Medicines Control Agency, Markieu Janneh Kaira, stated in a letter to India’s drug controller general that the new rule aims to address issues related to substandard and counterfeit medicines entering the country.
The agency has appointed Quntrol Laboratories, an independent inspection and testing company in Mumbai, to conduct thorough examinations and issue a Clean Report of Inspection and Analysis (CRIA) for each shipment from India.
If conformity is established, Quntrol will issue the mandatory CRIA document. However, if the quality of the product is found to be non-compliant, the shipment will be quarantined or seized, and appropriate regulatory actions will be taken.
For now, the rule applies exclusively to Indian pharmaceutical imports, while India has recently made testing mandatory for all cough syrups before export. Gambia, with its population of 2.5 million, is one of Africa’s smallest and poorest nations.
The World Bank is funding a testing laboratory in Gambia, although it is not yet completed. The letter did not specify whether the testing laboratory approved by the Medicines Control Agency would be based in India or another location.
Last year, over 70 children in Gambia, primarily under the age of 5, died from acute kidney injury caused by adulterated cough syrups from India.
The World Health Organization revealed that the Indian-made syrups contained toxic substances, including ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol, which are unsuitable for human consumption.
Experts in manufacturing indicate that these lethal toxins are used as cheap substitutes for propylene glycol, a crucial component in syrupy medicines.