Indian officials are in contact with foreign authorities and have held meetings in Africa to ensure its drug exports do not suffer, the government said on Wednesday, after Indian-made cough syrups were linked to deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan.
India’s drug industry is one of the biggest in the world but its reputation has been shaken after tests conducted by the World Health Organisation and other agencies showed toxins in the cough syrups. The tainted products were linked to the deaths of 70 children in Gambia and 19 in Uzbekistan last year.
Asked by an Indian lawmaker if the government had assessed the impact of the incidents on medicine exports, the deputy trade and industry minister said that various agencies were working on the matter.
“Indian Missions abroad are having regular interactions with the authorities to retain the confidence within the drug regulatory agencies,” Anupriya Patel said.
“To build confidence and also to ensure continuity of the trade, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India has led business delegations to African and Commonwealth of Independent States countries and had one-to-one discussions with drug regulating agencies and pharma trade associations assuring them of the quality of Indian generic products.”
The export council is also conducting workshops and training programmes with Indian exporters on “quality management and to apprise them of the international standards and their compliance”, she said.
India is the world’s largest supplier of generic medicines with a 20% share by volume. More than 3,000 pharmaceutical companies make their products in the country through a network of more than 10,500 manufacturing plants.
Between 2014 and 2022, India’s pharmaceutical exports more than doubled to $24.6 billion, according to government data.
India has pushed back against allegations that cough syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals contained toxins and killed the children in Gambia, disputing findings of the WHO.
Maiden has denied that its drugs were at fault for the deaths, and tests by an Indian government laboratory found no toxins in them. A company director did not immediately answer his phone on Thursday.
Indian police, however, have arrested three employees of another company, Marion Biotech, whose cough syrups sold to Uzbekistan had been found contaminated. Marion did not immediately respond to an email and a call seeking comment.