Cough syrup deaths; Indian firm denies test tampering  

Press Release 02:08 PM, 23 Dec, 2023
Cough syrup deaths; Indian firm denies test tampering  

NEW DELHI: Maiden Pharmaceuticals, an Indian pharmaceutical company implicated in the deaths of children in Gambia due to its toxic cough syrups, categorically denied allegations of tampering with test samples or engaging in bribery.

The denial comes in response to an ongoing investigation by local health officials into a complaint that suggests the manipulation of test results.

A spokesperson from the state of Haryana's Food and Drug Administration disclosed to Reuters that they were nearing the completion of a probe to determine if a state drug regulator had been bribed to alter samples tested by the Indian government. These samples contradicted the World Health Organization's findings of toxic substances in the cough syrups.

Founder of Maiden Pharmaceuticals, Naresh Kumar Goyal, emphatically told Reuters, "I have never changed the sample. There is no evidence and no proof against us. I have not given a bribe."

Goyal further mentioned that neither he nor any representative of his company had been summoned by the investigator, Gagandeep Singh, joint director of the state agency. He attributed the complaint to a competitor but refrained from revealing their identity.

While Goyal presented his defense, Singh declined to comment on the statements made.

The WHO has linked Maiden's syrups to the deaths of 70 children in Gambia, but the Indian government contests these findings. Singh reported on Friday that his agency had received a comprehensive complaint alleging that the state's drug regulator accepted a bribe of 50 million Indian rupees ($600,000) to switch test samples before reaching the Indian laboratory.

The implicated regulator, Manmohan Taneja, did not respond to attempts at communication. In October, he dismissed the bribery probe as a "fake complaint from a fake person." Goyal clarified that Maiden's factory, closed by the government in October 2022 following the Gambia deaths, was undergoing renovation. He expressed willingness for authorities to inspect the facility for reopening, asserting that necessary improvements had been made.

The health ministry of India did not respond to requests for comment.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter indicated that the Indian government was not rushing to reopen the three pharmaceutical factories, including Maiden's Haryana facility, linked to at least 141 deaths in Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Cameroon since last year.

The sources suggested that a decision was unlikely before the upcoming general election in May, considering the potential negative public reaction.