The trial related to the tragic deaths of children caused by adulterated syrups last year in The Gambia has recommenced at the Banjul High Court. The AKI association, representing the families of the victims, eagerly awaits the verdict in this trial, which experienced delays in July and October due to the absence of the five defendants. Approximately 70 children under the age of 5 lost their lives in 2022 due to kidney failure after consuming these over-the-counter medications.
Nineteen plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against five defendants, including Maiden Pharmaceuticals, Atlantic Pharmaceuticals (the local distributor), the Medical Controls Agency, the Ministry of Health, and Attorney General Dawda A. Jallow. The plaintiffs demand an acknowledgment that the contaminated medicines were responsible for the children’s deaths. While Maiden Pharmaceuticals denies the allegations, Gambian health authorities initially suspected E.coli bacteria as a potential cause.
In July, a government task force in The Gambia revealed that four cough syrups imported from India were responsible for the fatalities. The plaintiffs seek approximately $230,000 in damages per child and also hold the Medical Controls Agency accountable for failing to regulate the quality and safety of medicines.
The Gambian government is also considering legal action against the Indian manufacturer. Laboratory tests conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) detected significant levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, commonly used as antifreeze, which can be lethal when ingested.
In response to the incident, The Gambia issued a recall of various cough and cold medications in September of the previous year, including all products manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals. The Indian laboratory responsible for the adulterated syrups was shut down following an investigation.
President Barrow of The Gambia pledged to establish a national laboratory to ensure drug quality and food safety, as such a facility does not currently exist in the country. In January, the WHO urged immediate and coordinated action to eliminate non-compliant and counterfeit medicines, particularly contaminated cough syrups associated with the deaths of 300 children in The Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan.