ISLAMABAD: Pakistan faces an embarrassing situation as the Maldives has reported contamination in Pakistani syrups and suspension medicines, prompting the World Health Organisation to issue an alert urging countries to step up vigilance and test products manufactured by a Lahore-based pharmaceutical company.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) sprang into action after getting information from the Maldives and sealed the syrup section of the company, Pharmix Lab­oratories (Pvt) Ltd, and may initiate legal action after receiving lab test reports.

The substances found in the syrups are reportedly used in hydraulic brake fluids, stamp pad inks, paints, plastics and cosmetics.

Fayaz Ahmed, a representative of the company, confirmed that Drap had sealed the firm’s syrup section, but insisted that no company does it willfully. At the moment, he said, he was not in a position to comment on the issue.

According to a statement, the WHO’s medical product alert referred to five different syrups and suspension medicines initially detected in the Maldives and Pakistan and notified to the organisation on Nov 8. Some of the tainted products have also been detected in Belize, Fiji and Laos.

“The five products are Alergo Syrup, Emidone Suspension, Mucorid Syrup, Ulcofin Suspension and Zincell Syrup. A total of 23 batches of these products are affected. The stated manufacturer of all the affected products is Pharmix Laboratories (Pvt) Ltd Pakistan,” it stated.

“In November 2023, samples of five different batches of Alergo syrup were screened for non-compliance by the quality control laboratory of the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) in accordance with the thin-layer chromatography (TLC) test for diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG) for inclusion in the International Pharmacopoeia. The routine screening detected potentially unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants,” it stated.

A pharmacist told Dawn on condition of anonymity that DEG and EG were used world over in liquid preparation for antifreeze e.g. hydraulic brake fluids, stamp pad inks, ballpoint pens, solvents, paints, plastics, films and cosmetics.

Drap CEO Dr Asim Rauf told Dawn that the regulator had issued protocols and all the companies were bound to follow them.

“The Lahore-based company had manufactured its products in 2021, before issuance of the protocols, and the contamination has been found in some of the batches in Maldives and within Pakistan,” he said. “Due to which all syrups of the company have been recalled and the syrup section of the company has been sealed. Moreover, samples have been sent to laboratory for further tests.”

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2023

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