Indian probe into bribe charges in toxic syrup scam at final stage 

MN Report 06:30 PM, 22 Dec, 2023
Indian probe into bribe charges in toxic syrup scam at final stage 

NEW DELHI: The investigation into a serious allegation against a state drug regulator for allegedly accepting a bribe to manipulate toxic cough syrup samples connected to child deaths in Gambia before conducting tests in India is about to conclude, says an official handout.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) linked these syrups to the deaths of 70 children in Gambia last year, while Indian government maintains that tests carried out in a state-run laboratory indicated the syrups to be non-toxic.

Maiden Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of these syrups, has denied any wrongdoing.

In June, Yashpal, a lawyer, filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Haryana state, where Maiden is located, accusing the state's drug controller, Manmohan Taneja, of accepting a Rs50 million ($600,687) bribe from Maiden to tamper with the samples before testing in a government laboratory.

Reuters could not independently verify the bribery claims, and Taneja dismissed the complaint as fake.

Gagandeep Singh, Joint Director at Haryana's Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), has revealed that he is conducting a thorough investigation into Yashpal's complaint and is in the final stages of completing it.

This marks the first official acknowledgment of the investigation's existence and progress. Singh refrained from sharing his findings before submitting a consolidated report to his superior, Haryana's FDA Commissioner Ashok Kumar Meena. Any subsequent actions will be determined by higher authorities.

Meena and India's health ministry have not responded to requests for comments. Singh clarified that Yashpal, who uses only one name, has not appeared in person but has communicated through email, and his statements have been considered in the investigation.

In his initial complaint, Yashpal did not disclose the source of his information or provide evidence regarding the allegations. He mentioned learning about the alleged bribery from at least two individuals in India's pharmaceutical industry, including one associated with Maiden, but declined to reveal their identities due to concerns about potential repercussions.

The issue was internationally highlighted, given that Indian-made cough syrups have been linked to child deaths in Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Cameroon, causing damage to India's reputation as the world's largest drug manufacturer, following the United States and China.

This year, the Indian government has increased factory inspections in its $50 billion pharmaceutical industry and made cough syrup testing mandatory at government or government-identified private laboratories before export.