CSE warns of high mortality rate of babies under 5 months who are given cough syrup during COVID-19 pandemic

India halts production of cough syrups suspected of links to child deaths

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A high number of babies under 5 months who are given cough syrup during the COVID-19 pandemic are being deprived of life-saving medicine, a watchdog has warned.

In a letter to Health Minister J P Nadda last week, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said a survey it carried out found that “half of all babies under the age of five months receiving cough medicine in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur hospitals were not given any cough medicine by doctors”.

Of the babies given cough syrup, 56% of them died, it said, as per the CSE’s survey based on interviews with caregivers and doctors.

The letter further said the CSE had submitted a detailed report on the matter to the state government, and they had assured the state government that they would bring down the mortality rate to 20%. “The CSE is investigating if any changes in prescribing practices (including use of antibiotics) could have led to the high mortality rate,” it said.

Though India has over 800 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths, the death toll has climbed to 32 in Mumbai and 23 in Pune. There have been two deaths in Nagpur.

Of the 32 deaths in Mumbai and 23 in Pune, 19 and 15 deaths, respectively, had been diagnosed after the families had contacted the CSE, whose office’s email id.

The CSE’s report said the mortality rate was 28% (32% mortality for those diagnosed, and 28% mortality for those who did not) for the families who first called the office.

Of the 20 families who were diagnosed after they called the CSE, 12 were given a diagnosis of COVID-19 and were given medicines. Of the eight families whose patients did not receive a diagnosis of COVID-19, four were allowed to die due to lack of facilities and supplies.

The letter to the health minister said the CSE has sought clarification from the state government on the matter, and added that the CSE will also send a detailed report to the government.

The CSE has also appealed to the government to step up monitoring of the medicines used by doctors to decide whether a certain medication should be given to babies, especially during the pandemic, to avoid death

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