Indonesian Cough Syrup Manufacturer’s Officials Jailed After Child Deaths

The chief executive and three officials of an Indonesian company, Afi Farma, linked to the tragic deaths of over 200 children due to its cough syrup have been sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 billion Indonesian rupiah ($63,056; £51,786).

Afi Farma faced allegations of producing cough syrups containing excessive levels of toxic substances, leading to the tragic incidents.

The defense lawyer for the firm stated they contested the allegations of negligence and were considering appealing the verdict.

Prosecutors revealed that between October 2021 and February 2022, the company received two batches of propylene glycol, an ingredient used in making cough syrup. Shockingly, these batches were found to contain 96% to 99% ethylene glycol instead. While propylene glycol is non-toxic and commonly used in medications, cosmetics, and food, ethylene glycol, utilized in paint, pens, and brake fluid, is toxic.

The manufacturer failed to conduct testing on the syrup ingredients and instead relied on safety certifications from its supplier, leading to the disastrous outcome.

The judge in the Kediri District Court, East Java, found the four defendants guilty of intentionally producing pharmaceutical products that did not meet safety standards.

This case highlights the urgent need for stringent oversight in drug supply chains worldwide following these tragic incidents. Since 2022, more than 200 Indonesian children, primarily under five years old, died due to acute kidney injury from contaminated cough syrup. The deaths have also been reported in The Gambia and Uzbekistan, with approximately 100 fatalities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised warnings about six cough syrups originating from India and Indonesia.

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