Gambia: authorities probe link between paracetamol syrup and children’s deaths

Gambian authorities have suspended the sales and import of paracetamol syrups in response to recent deaths of children under the age of five. 

Have the deaths been linked to the medicine? 

Investigations are ongoing to determine if the medicines are responsible for the deaths. But according to the country’s health service director, Mustapha Bittaye, autopsies conducted on dozens of the children who have died within the last three months “suggest the possibility of paracetamol.” Doctors are said to be suspecting a link as the deaths have followed kidney injuries in children who took paracetamol syrups to treat fever. 

Did the children all take the same brand of syrup? 

That’s not stated, but the chances of that are slim. The complete ban on all types of medicine is to tackle the problem from the source, to identify any incidence of poor quality or outright counterfeit syrups flooding the country, and to prevent avoidable deaths since no specific type has been identified as the cause of the deaths. This again highlights the lingering challenge of counterfeit drugs which the West African region has not been able to successfully eradicate. 

As much as a third of medicines sold in some parts of Africa are fake, according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC). Poverty, access to over-the-counter sales without prescription, and the absence of a clear distinction between fake and genuine products have been identified as factors driving the crisis. Stakeholders are hoping that innovative health tech startups can help support governments’ efforts in addressing the menace. 

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