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Recall of 'Benylin' drug batch occasioned by contamination concerns

Health & Science
 Benylin cough syrup. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

It is now emerging that the recalled ‘Benylin’ cough syrup batches had been contaminated following the discovery of a toxic compound, diethylene glycol.

According to Dr James Githinji, a consultant pharmacist and toxicologist, diethylene glycol poses serious health risks, including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea and even kidney malfunction, which can potentially lead to fatalities.

“The Benylin recall serves as a stark reminder of the importance of stringent quality control measures in the pharmaceutical industry. As authorities work to address the current crisis, there is a pressing need for sustained efforts to safeguard public health and prevent similar incidents in the future,” Dr Githinji emphasizes.

The recalled Batch No. 329304, Benylin Pediatric 100ml syrup, was manufactured in May 2021 in South Africa by Johnson & Johnson and is set to expire in April 2024.

Nigeria had earlier taken similar steps after an analysis conducted by the West African country's National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

The affected batch is generally used in the management of allergies, hay fever, common cold and coughs.

This isn't the first time diethylene glycol has caused a health crisis. Previous incidents in Nigeria, Panama, and Gambia have resulted in numerous deaths, primarily among children. The contamination in Nigeria was attributed to pharmaceutical fraud, highlighting the grave consequences of poor or substandard manufacturing practices.

There are several types of ‘Benylin’. The brand comes in different varieties, aimed at managing and treating different types of chest infections and allergies. ‘Benylin Chesty Cough’, ‘Benylin Dry Cough’, which contains extra metophan, ‘Benylin Infant’, which comes with some amount of glycerol, and ‘Benylin Cough syrup with Codeine’.

 “Benylin, a member of the antihistamine drug family, contains codeine, a potent painkiller commonly used to suppress dry coughs. However, codeine carries significant risks, including addiction, respiratory failure and even death if consumed in excessive quantities or abused,” Dr. Githinji explains.

Codeine-containing medications were previously available over the counter in Kenya, leading to concerns of misuse and abuse. However, stringent regulations and control by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) now require prescriptions for their purchase.

Despite these measures, reports suggest that codeine abuse persists, particularly in densely populated areas, raising questions about enforcement and monitoring mechanisms.

 Dr. Githinji emphasizes the need for better regulation and monitoring of pharmaceutical products to prevent future incidents of contamination and ensure public safety.

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