Indonesia’s food and drug agency said on Wednesday that it has suspended the licenses of two more local drug companies producing syrup-type medications. According to reports, this comes at a time when the authorities are investigating the deaths of nearly 200 children due to acute kidney injury.
According to a report by the news agency Reuters, the Southeast Asian country temporarily banned sales of some syrup-based medications in October after it identified the presence in some products of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol as possible factors for causing the illness.
The two ingredients are used in antifreeze and brake fluids and other industrial applications. However, it is also as a cheaper alternative in some pharmaceutical products to glycerine which is a solvent or thickening agent in many cough syrups. Studies suggest that they can be toxic and lead to acute kidney injury.
Penny K. Lukito, chief of the food and drugs agency (BPOM), told reporters the companies – PT Samco Farma and PT Ciubros Farma – used high levels of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol in their products, as quoted by Reuters.
The companies had been ordered to pull the products and destroy remaining batches, she said, adding it also temporarily revoked their product licenses.
Indonesian authorities were investigating raw material supply chains and screening processes to understand how an excess amount of the ingredients got into products, said Penny as quoted by Reuters.
“The distribution line is long, from importers to some chemical product distributors and big traders until the raw ingredients reach the pharmaceutical industries,” she said as per Reuters.
Earlier this week, BPOM suspended the distribution licenses of three other companies making products that it said contained a high level of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.
A similar incident took place in Gambia where at least 70 deaths related to syrup medications made by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals were reported. Following this, Indonesia has been investigating the deaths in consultation with the global health agency.
(With inputs from Reuters)