Uzbekistan links 18 child deaths to cough syrup from India, prompting halt in production of the medicine

A cough syrup manufactured in India has been linked to the deaths of 18 children. 

Uzbekistan's health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 18 children in the country died after consuming Doc-1 Max syrup, manufactured by Indian pharmaceutical company Marion Biotech.

The manufacturer has stopped production of its cough syrup in response.

The company's legal representative Hasan Harris told Reuters partner ANI: "We regret the deaths, the government is conducting an enquiry. We'll take action as per report."

The syrup contained a toxic substance, ethylene glycol, and was administered in doses higher than the standard dose designated for children either by their parents, who mistook it for an anti-cold remedy, or on the advice of pharmacists, the Uzbekistan ministry said.

Seven employees were dismissed by the Uzbek ministry following a probe into the matter, and "disciplinary measures"
were taken against some specialists.

Doc-1 Max tablets and syrups have also been withdrawn from all pharmacies, the ministry added.

India's drug regulator said it had inspected Marion Biotech's production facility and samples of the cough syrup had been sent for testing.

The Uzbekistan incident comes after the deaths of 70 children in The Gambia were linked to cough and cold syrups manufactured by New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Testing by the World Health Organisation found that the products contained "unacceptably high" quantities of two substances known to be toxic.

However, the Indian government and the pharmaceutical company have denied allegations linking the syrup to the deaths.

Indonesia has also seen a surge in deaths possibly linked to cough syrup, prompting the government to suspend sales of all syrup and liquid medication.

At least 199 people, many of them young children, have died in Indonesia as a result of acute kidney injury since August, with families demanding compensation and the government launching an investigation.