The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday issued a concerning alert regarding a batch of cough and cold syrup known as “Naturcold” being sold in Cameroon. The WHO has flagged this product as toxic due to the presence of unacceptable levels of contaminant chemicals.
Naturcold syrup, meant to alleviate symptoms associated with the common cold, flu, and allergic rhinitis, contains paracetamol, phenylephrine hydrochloride, and chlorpheniramine maleate as its active ingredients, according to the WHO for the region of Africa.
Last month, the WHO conducted an analysis of the cough syrup after receiving samples from Cameroon. The results revealed a shocking 28.6% presence of diethylene glycol in the syrup, which far exceeds the acceptable limit of 0.10%. Diethylene glycol, often used as a solvent, can be unlawfully added to medications as a cheaper alternative to more expensive ingredients.
The potential dangers associated with this tainted cough syrup, particularly for children, are extremely concerning. Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans and can be fatal. WHO has warned that the product is unsafe, and its use in children could lead to severe injury or even death. Additionally, other side effects may include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, altered mental state, headache, and acute kidney injury, which can also be life-threatening.
The packaging of the product indicates that it is manufactured by Fraken International (England). However, the United Kingdom’s national regulatory authority has confirmed that no such company exists in the country, raising suspicions about the product’s origin.
The WHO is actively investigating the source of the contaminated cough syrup and is urging the public to refrain from using the product. It’s possible that the product may have authorizations in other countries as well.
This alert serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences that contaminated cough syrup can bring. In 2022, more than 300 children lost their lives in the Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Indonesia due to tainted cough syrup. Proper regulatory measures and vigilant monitoring of medicines are essential to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.