Indonesian government sued over cough syrup deaths

JAKARTA, 2 Dec 2022:

A dozen Indonesian families have sued the government and several pharmaceutical companies following the deaths of 200 children linked to toxic components in several cold and cough syrups.

The class action lawsuit was filed against the health ministry, Indonesia’s national drug and food control agency (BPOM) and seven pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

In a video released by the lawyer representing the affected families and issued by local media, Awan Puryadi demanded the health ministry pledge its commitment by guaranteeing long-term care – including expenses and access to treatment for the victims.

The 12 families that filed the lawsuit on Nov 22 are requesting compensation of around US$128,000 for each child who died after ingesting contaminated medicine and US$64,000 for each child with acute kidney injury.

Since early 2022, at least 200 minors out of a total of 324 reported cases have died of acute kidney failure, of whom 11 are still receiving treatment – according to the latest figures from the Indonesian health authorities.

Indonesia launched an investigation into the cases after the World Health Organisation (WHO) alerted the government in October over the death of more than 60 minors with kidney failure in The Gambia.

The WHO linked those deaths to an oral medication and three cough and cold syrups manufactured by the Indian Maiden Pharmaceuticals laboratory.

The drugs linked to the deaths in Africa are not sold in Indonesia, and it is still unknown whether there is any connection between the incidents.

BPOM said ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG), both solvents, were found in the deceased children.

In early November, the Indonesian government revoked the licenses of several pharmaceutical companies linked to the deaths – including PT Samco Farma, PT Ciubros Pharma, PT Yarindo Farmatama and PT Universal Pharmaceutical Industries – as well as local suppliers to the companies PT Mega Setia Agung Kimia and PT Tirta Buana Kemindo.

EG and DEG solvents are used to make tobacco products, brake fluids and lubricants and are sometimes used illegally in other consumer products.

As a result of the findings, Indonesian authorities banned the sale of all cough and fever syrups.