The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert on October 5 to warn that four substandard cough and cold syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in India have been "potentially linked with acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children."

The Guardian reports that while the four products have been identified in The Gambia and reported to WHO in September 2022, global exposure is still possible as the "manufacturer may have used the same contaminated material in other products and distributed them locally or exported" them.

The WHO report states that "laboratory analysis of samples of each of the four products confirms that they contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants."

These substances are toxic and their effects "can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state and acute kidney injury which may lead to death."

BBC News reports that the four medicines have been identified as "Promethazine Oral Solution", "Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup", "Makoff Baby Cough Syrup" and "Magrip N Cold Syrup."

The World Health Organization first learned of these contaminated medicines after medical authorities in The Gambia saw a noticeable increase in cases of acute kidney injury in children under the age of five in late July. They reported last month that dozens of children in their country have died as a result.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus gave a statement in Geneva on Tuesday and said, "The loss of these young lives is beyond heart-breaking for their families." He also said that the WHO is "conducting further investigation with the company and regulatory authorities in India".

The government of the republic of The Gambia have since suspended the use of all paracetamol syrups and has begun collecting paracetamol and promethazine syrup from rural households. They are currently promoting the widespread use of tablets instead.