More than two months after at least nine children died in Jammu and Kashmir allegedly after being given a contaminated cough syrup manufactured in Himachal Pradesh, the origin of the poisonous impurity in the drug is yet to be traced, state officials Monday said.
Earlier this month, owners of Digital Vision, the pharmaceutical manufacturing unit, were booked after laboratory reports confirmed the presence of diethylene glycol (DEG) in the solvent used to formulate the cough syrup, responsible for causing renal failure in the victims. Last week, the Sirmaur police arrested a supplier from Ambala who had allegedly sold a solvent used to formulate the syrup “Coldbest PC”.
Sirmaur SP Ajay Krishan Sharma confirmed that the company officials are still absconding. “Until they are arrested and interrogated, it is difficult to pinpoint the source of DEG and ascertain at what stage it was added to the cough syrup. The supplier, who was operating without a licence, did not keep adequate records of his sale and purchase. It is likely that he bought the solvent from a Delhi-based trader whom we’re trying to trace,” the SP said, adding that the supplier, Vibhor Chitkara, has claimed that the the product sold by him was free from any impurity.
DSP Param Dev, the investigating official in the case, said, “The accused are on the run. We have learnt that they have filed a petition in the high court seeking a quashing of the FIR and a CBI inquiry”.
The accused include Parshottam Goyal and Konic Goyal, owners and managing directors of Digital Vision.
According to drug control officials, 3,447 bottles of the contaminated batch of the syrup made in September last year had already been sold across at least eight states by the time the officials ordered a recall of the medicine in January. No other cases of illness attributed to the drug have been reported.
“Newspaper notices were published and reports obtained from the drug inspectors indicate that the formulation is not available now in any of the stores in Tripura. As yet, there has been no report of any casualty or sickness,” said Subashis Das, joint director in the directorate of health services in Tripura, one of the states where “Coldbest PC” was sold.
DK Tiwari, Assistant Commissioner (Drugs), Uttar Pradesh, said that the medicine was recalled from all stores in the state following an alert from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and no case of sickness has been reported from the state.
However, drug officials across the country have failed to trace the customers who had already bought, and presumably consumed the medicine.
FIRs against the company have been registered in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Earlier, Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had said that his government was seeking “stringent action” — imprisonment of 10 years to life — against the company’s executives.
Five drug samples from HP, eight from Punjab, fail quality tests
In the monthly drug quality alert issued by CDSCO for February, 38 out of a total of 1,271 drug samples from the country were declared as ‘Not of Standard Quality’. Five of the failed samples were from Himachal Pradesh, including Tymolytic AP manufactured by Life Vision Healthcare, Cecon-XT tablets made by Spas Remedise, Albendazole tablets IP manufactured by IBN Herbals, Amoxycillin and Potassium Clavulanate Tablets IP made by Shri Sai Balaji Pharmatech, and Enzitec Digestive Enzyme Syrup manufactured by Unibiotech Formulations Delta Division.
In the neighbouring states, eight samples from Punjab failed the tests while the number of failed samples from Haryana and Uttarakhand was four each, according to the alert.
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