WHO commends Maldives for becoming first to identify contaminated medication

A medical laboratory.

World Health Organization (WHO) commended Maldives for its exemplary commitment and vigilance in identifying cough syrups contaminated with dangerous chemicals ‘diethylene glycol’ and ‘ethylene glycol’ as the first country to do so.

Maldives banned the medications over the chemicals on November 30th. 

WHO, in a statement said, that collaborative work between the organization and the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) in identifying contaminants ‘diethylene glycol’ and ‘ethylene glycol’, in cough syrups manufactured by Pakistan’s PHARMIX Laboratories set a paradigm for global health protection.

“The commendable work of the Maldives Food and Drug Authority, in partnership with WHO, serves as a beacon of success in addressing global health challenges, underscoring the importance of swift action, collaboration, and stringent regulatory measures to protect vulnerable populations from the grave consequences of contaminated medicines,” the statement read.

Maldives identified the contamination using a new screening method developed to support screening from the less-resourced National Quality Control Laboratory (NQCL). Subsequently, the MFDA launched a screening program of available products in the market via the thin layer chromatography (TLC) test for diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, as outlined in the International Pharmacopoeia.

The findings which identified numerous potentially contaminated products prompted regulatory actions to safeguard public health and additional investigations.

“With the support of WHO, a comprehensive laboratory testing confirmed the contamination, with ethylene glycol levels ranging from 0.62 to 0.82% w/w—significantly surpassing the accepted limit of 0.10% w/w. This finding was not merely a national concern as the same products had been marketed in four other countries, thus enabling to safeguard public health at a global scale,” the statement noted.

In response to the alters raised by the Maldives, PHARMIX Laboratories was instructed by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to halt the production of all oral liquid dosage medicines and later issued a recall alert for five different syrup medicines manufactured by the company.

WHO, in their statement, reiterated the effectiveness of international collaboration in safeguarding public health.