January 29, 2023

Juan Kabayan

All the News All the Time

Indonesia families sue government over cough syrup deaths, injuries

(FILES) A Pakistani patient who consumed toxic cough syrup is treated in a ward of a hospital in Gujranwala on December 29, 2012. At least 16 people, mostly drug addicts seeking a fix, have died after drinking toxic cough syrup in an eastern Pakistani city, officials said Saturday. AFP PHOTO/ Arif ALI (Photo by Arif Ali / AFP)

The Southeast Asian country has seen a spike in cases of acute kidney injury since August, with the deaths of at least 199 people, mostly children, prompting a probe and ban on some liquid medicine sales.

The class action lawsuit targets the ministry of health, the country’s food and drug agency and seven companies implicated in selling syrups containing excessive amounts of two compounds used in industrial products such as antifreeze.

Awan Puryadi, a legal representative of the victims’ relatives, told AFP they took action because the authorities failed to prevent the sale of harmful medicines and the subsequent child deaths or injuries.

“No one has claimed responsibility. They are very disappointed with the current situation,” Puryadi said Thursday about the lawsuit, which was filed on November 18.

“We demand the… drug suppliers, pharmacies, the BPOM (food and drug agency) and the health ministry all take responsibility.”

Families are seeking compensation of around 2 billion rupiah ($127,049) for every person killed and around 1 billion rupiah ($63,524) for every person injured, the lawyer said.

Two families listed on the lawsuit were pursuing legal action on behalf of a total of 12 families, he said, adding more could join in the future.

Police have launched an investigation into at least three companies that had their licenses to produce syrup medicines temporarily frozen.

In West Africa, The Gambia recorded 70 child deaths in October suspected to have been caused by imported syrup medicines.

The World Health Organization has said it found an “unacceptable amount” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in four Indian-made cough syrups and warned they could be linked to the deaths.