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Cough medicine tainted with ethylene glycol that killed at least 19 children in Uzbekistan in late December 2022 has once again revealed lax oversight and regulation of pharmaceutical companies based in India.

That preventable tragedy, which involves products made by Marion Biotech, based in Noida, India, echoes earlier cases. In the summer of 2022, at least 70 children in Gambia died from kidney failure after using cough medicine made by India-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals that contained ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol, toxic chemicals often used in manufacturing as dissolving agents that can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys.


India has had plenty of time to learn about — and control — tainted drugs, but hasn’t done so. The outbreak in Gambia became public just days after a new book, “The Truth Pill: The Myth of Drug Regulation in India,” was published. The book, written by Dinesh S. Thakur, a former pharmaceutical executive whose revelations of fraud led to a huge and successful U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Indian drugmaker Ranbaxy in 2013, and his colleague Prashant Reddy T, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and drug regulatory law, opens with descriptions of five previous episodes of people dying after using cough medicine.

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