Indonesia says child deaths from acute kidney injury rise to 133

Pharmacy employees in Jakarta, Indonesia, wait for customers at a counter displaying a notification saying that the sale of medicinal syrup is temporarily halted on October 20, 2022 [Tatan Syuflana/AP]

A ban on all syrup and liquid medicine prescriptions and sales will be narrowed to 102 products being investigated.

The number of children in Indonesia who have died from acute kidney injury (AKI) linked to harmful substances in medicinal syrups has risen to 133 from the previously reported 99 fatalities, the country’s health minister said.

Indonesian health authorities said this week they were investigating an unexplained rise since January in the number of children’s deaths from AKI and had temporarily banned the sales and prescription of all syrup-based medications.

The ban followed the discovery that some medicinal syrups available in Indonesia were found to contain ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol, ingredients that have been linked to child death from AKI in The Gambia.

“We have identified 241 cases of acute kidney injury in 22 provinces, with 133 fatalities,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a press conference on Friday, noting most patients were children under the age of five.

“Seven out of 11 children had that harmful substance: ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol butyl ether,” the minister said. “It is confirmed that (AKI) was caused by (those) substances.”

The country’s food and drug agency has named five locally-made products which contained excessive levels of ethylene glycol and has ordered the producers to pull them out of circulation and destroy all remaining batches.

Health authorities had also found traces of similar substances in 102 syrup medicines in the homes of affected children, the minister said, and the ban announced Wednesday on all syrup and liquid medicine prescriptions and sales will be narrowed to those 102 products.

The minister also said some AKI patients had improved after health authorities tested an antidote imported from Singapore, adding more of the substance will be procured for distribution across Indonesia.

Before the recent spike in child deaths, the country’s health ministry typically saw two to five cases of AKI a month.

The rise in childhood AKI fatalities in Indonesia comes as The Gambia’s government probes the death of 70 children from AKI linked to paracetamol syrups used to treat fever, which contained excessive levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, in a scandal linked to four Indian-made cough syrups.

The World Health Organization said this month that it found an “unacceptable amount” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in four Indian-made cough syrups that were linked to the deaths in The Gambia.



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