A parliamentary committee in the Gambia has recommended prosecuting the Indian manufacturer of cough syrups suspected of causing the deaths of at least 70 children in the country.
It said Maiden Pharmaceuticals should be held responsible for exporting what it called contaminated drugs.
The WHO had issued a warning in October advising regulators to halt its sale.
An Indian official this month said the WHO was “presumptuous” in blaming the syrups.
But the WHO said it was only following its mandate and “sticking to the measures taken”.
After weeks of investigation, the Gambian parliamentary committee has recommended that authorities take tough measures, including banning all Maiden Pharmaceuticals products in the country.
The WHO had identified four of the drugs possibly linked to the deaths of the Gambian children and issued a global alert.
“The findings remain the same as the previous reports indicating that Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup were contaminated with diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol,” the parliamentary committee said in its report.
Diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol are toxic to humans and can be fatal if consumed.
The committee said it is “convinced that Maiden Pharmaceuticals [is] culpable and responsible for exporting the contaminated medicines”.
But it added that the exact scientific cause of the children’s deaths is still being investigated.
The committee wanted the country’s Medicine Control Agency to ensure that all drugs imported into the country are properly registered and that background checks are conducted on manufacturers – including a visit to their facilities.
The report also highlighted shortcomings in the country’s healthcare system and urged the government to strengthen it and provide better equipment and medicines to the country’s hospitals.
At the end of July, The Gambia noted an increase in cases of acute kidney injury in children under the age of five. The government later said about 69 children had died from these injuries.
After the news broke in October, India said it was investigating the products and ordered Maiden Pharmaceuticals to halt production at its main plant in the northern state of Haryana.
On Dec. 13, Dr. VG Somani, India’s drug controller general, wrote a letter to WHO saying that samples tested in a government lab “were found not to be contaminated” with the compounds.
“According to the test reports received from [the] government laboratory, all control samples of the four products were found to meet specifications,” he added.
The test results are being further examined by a panel of Indian experts.
A senior adviser to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting told the BBC this week that the WHO had been “presumptuous” in blaming cough syrups for the children’s deaths.
“Subsequent inspections, tests and studies by the notified bodies and the technical team of the Government of India have shown that the presumptive statement made by WHO was untrue and incorrect,” said Kanchan Gupta, adding that the health authority “[jumped] the gun without valid scientific reasons”.
India produces a third of the world’s pharmaceuticals, mostly in the form of generics.
Home to some of the fastest growing pharmaceutical companies, the country is known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ and serves many of the medical needs of African countries.