Deaths of Children due to contaminated cough syrups- Role of the Drug Controller of India

child death


Shri Rajesh Bhushan

Union Health Secretary

Dear Shri Bhushan,

During the last few years, the use of spurious cough syrup in India has caused deaths of infants. Eleven children lost their lives due to this in J&K in 2020 ( There were several such instances in other States, as evident from the following news reports.

Despite this, no tangible action appears to have been taken by your Ministry and the Drug Controller of India (DCI) against the errant pharma companies

The latest in this sad saga is the news about more than sixty innocent children losing their lives in Gambia, when they were administered similar spurious cough syrups supplied by a pharma company in Haryana. The WHO has issued an advisory against its further use, bringing discredit to the Indian pharma industry (

While the above facts were reported, it is not clear as to the extent of presence of these spurious cough syrups in different States in India and whether the DCI had issued an advisory similar to the one issued by WHO in the case of Gambia to prevent deaths. It is not known whether there have been instances of deaths of children in the other States in India.

It appears that many dubious pharma companies are flourishing in India, apparently blessed by politicians and officers, endangering the lives of the people. What is the action (or inaction?) taken by your Ministry? Has a single promoter of any of these pharma companies been prosecuted for their part in these acts of criminal negligence, which attract the penal provisions of Sections 274-276 of the IPC?

Your Ministry and the DCI owe an explanation on this to the public.


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Government of India


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