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Uzbekistan Alleges Indian Cough Syrup Behind 65 Child Deaths Entered Market Through Bribery

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Uzbekistan prosecutors have alleged in court that distributors of the Indian cough syrup, which killed 65 children in the country, paid local health officials a bribe of $33,000 to do away with mandatory testing, Reuters reported. The cough syrups were produced by the Indian firm Marion Biotech.

In Uzbekistan, 21 people have been put on trial — 20 of whom are Uzbeks and one Indian — last week. The charges being faced by the 21 accused include tax evasion, sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines, abuse of office, negligence, forgery, and bribery.

Three of those on trial, an Indian and two Uzbek nationals are executives of Quramax Medical, the company that sold medicines Marion Biotech produced in Uzbekistan.

State prosecutor Saidkarim Akilov said Quramax CEO Singh Raghvendra Pratar allegedly paid government officials responsible for the standardization of medicinal products $33,000 to skip mandatory inspection of the syrups.

Pratar denied the charges in court but admitted that he gave the money to Uzbekistan officials through an intermediary as a “token of appreciation”, Reuters reported. However, Pratar said he had no idea how and by whom that amount was used.

The prosecutors also said that Quramax Medical had imported medicines from Marion Biotech at an inflated price through two Singapore-based intermediary companies, prompting tax evasion charges.

In March, after a recommendation from the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh Drugs Controlling and Licensing Authority canceled the manufacturing license of Marion Biotech. The operations head and two scientists of the company were also arrested.

The arrests came following an FIR registered by Central and state drug authorities after they found the company’s product samples were contaminated and not of standard quality.

Sources told Reuters that Marion Biotech allegedly used a toxic industrial-grade ingredient rather than the legitimate pharmaceutical version to make the cough syrups.

Sources said the syrup was made with industrial-grade propylene glycol (PG), a toxic material widely used in liquid detergents, antifreeze, paints, or coatings, and to enhance the effectiveness of pesticides.


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