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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Was Indian drug controller bribed to switch samples of cough syrup that killed Gambian children?


India’s Business Standard newspaper yesterday reported that authorities in the country have launched an inquiry into an allegation that an Indian pharmaceutical regulator, in return for a bribe, helped switch samples of cough syrups that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had linked to the deaths of children in The Gambia before the samples were tested at an Indian laboratory, according to two government officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.

In an April 29 letter to the Anti-Corruption Bureau in India’s Haryana state reviewed by Reuters, a lawyer named Yashpal accused the state’s drug controller, Manmohan Taneja, of taking a bribe of US$605,419 from local manufacturer Maiden Pharmaceuticals to help it switch the samples before an Indian government laboratory tested them. Maiden’s factory is based in Haryana. Reuters was unable to independently establish that any bribes were paid.

Taneja did not respond to phone calls, messages or emails seeking comment. Maiden did not respond to requests for comment. The WHO said it had no knowledge of the allegation.

Yashpal, who like some Indians uses only one name, did not say in the letter where he got the information, or provide evidence for his claim about the syrups made by Maiden.

The lawyer said he had learned about the alleged bribe in the Maiden case from at least two individuals in the pharmaceutical industry, including one within Maiden, but declined to identify any of them for fear of retribution.

“I just want the matter formally investigated,” said the 38-year-old, adding that he was waiting to be asked to submit an affidavit that would trigger such a probe.

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