Kenya cough syrup saga rages

March 18, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, March 18 – The Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) on Tuesday admitted that it had been aware of the ineffectiveness of cough syrups but had never seen the need to inform the public about it.

The association’s chairman Dr Moses Mwangi said they had over the years changed the dosage of cough mixtures for children but did not inform the public.
“Some years back we changed the age limit from one year to two years but we don’t have to announce because if we publicise every time we are changing people will wonder what was happening before,” Dr Mwangi said.

He however maintained that the industry had not failed Kenyans despite failure to inform them of the reclassification of the syrups.

“It is true that you can go to a pharmacy and just ask for the syrups and you get it (without being given proper information) and although this information about the re-classification is coming out we have continued to comply with the recommended standards,” the KAPI chairman said.

Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) chairman Karanja Ngugi expressed concerns that following reports that the cough mixtures were ineffective, some parents had turned to herbal remedies that may not solve the problem.

“It means now we are running from the frying pan, indeed we are in the frying pan, right into the fire. So let’s be very careful,” Mr Ngugi said.

“Advice and health warning on the bottles is now required to be there and actually the warnings should be sufficiently bold enough like it is in the cigarette warnings,” he added.

The PSK chairman however remained non committal on how soon they would inscribe the health warnings on the bottles.

Currently, the warnings are in a small printed paper inside the box of the syrups where parents or guardians are expected to read the instructions on the dosage and the health warnings.

“We are saying that in children under two years, it is not advisable to use these cough mixtures because of the sensitivity of the children. Address the underlying cause and the pediatrician or appropriate health provider is best placed to do this,” said the KAPI chairman.

He said children between two years and six years may need a cough relief but the decision should only be made by a health care provider.

“There is confusion among the people where they say that a cough syrup is supposed to cure but it does not, it only relieves.”

Meanwhile, in a press statement on Tuesday’s local dailies, the Director of Medical Services directed all health professionals to channel any issues and communications to the public about medicines through the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

“Whereas health facilities are free to amend their cough mixtures, the amendments are limited to their institutions only,” it stated in part.

Last week major private hospitals in Nairobi including the Aga khan and Nairobi hospitals withdrew the cough syrups for children citing a research that found them to be ineffective.

KAPI and PSK recommended that the best treatment for cough and colds is to ensure the child has plenty to drink and gets enough rest.

Paracetamols could also be used to reduce the child’s temperature. But for young babies, particularly those having difficulty in feeding, nasal saline drops are available to help thin and clear nasal secretions and if the child is not healed within five days, medical advice should be sought

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