India halts production of cough syrups suspected of links to child deaths, state government says
By Bill Van Auken
8 September 2011
Following the deaths of 19 children in a village of over 600,000 people in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, the village administration is preparing a court case against the government officials who first alerted authorities about a probable link to the deaths, a local daily reported Monday.
Andhra Pradesh’s Directorate of Health and Family Welfare has announced that no more cough syrups will be used in the state from Wednesday, July 17, since the deaths in the Nizamabad district of the state on July 15, which were blamed on the product’s use in children’s coughs.
“The decision has been taken to stop the use of medicines containing cough syrups,” state health officer Kannappa Rao, quoted in the daily Telangana Today, said.
The first notification of the deaths was sent on July 15, and the news of another suspected case on July 17 further raised suspicion that they were caused by a medicine called Rotavirus.
The product was launched in September 2008 by the government of India under the pharmaceuticals brand name of Dr Raja Bala, which is used to treat common colds.
The report on the deaths was based on the testimony of over 350 villagers who complained that they suffered from coughs and difficulty breathing when exposed to the Rotavirus. A survey found that 40 percent of those surveyed used the product, and only 5 percent said they had not.
By contrast, only 2 percent in the survey said they had never used the product.
The product is widely available in many urban areas, and the number of complaints has risen since the Rotavirus was launched.
By late July, hundreds of thousands of people had taken up the offer of Dr Raja Bala, who claimed that the product was not carcinogenic, and had no side effects.
It is estimated that there are between 250 and 300 children in the Nizamabad district who have been reported to have died under the use of the product, according to the Times of India newspaper.
Nizamabad deputy commissioner B Ram