World Health Organisation (WHO) medication safety alert on contaminated paediatric medicines outside of the UK

8th February 2023

The WHO has reported that two toxic contaminants; diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol have been identified in various medicinal products for children in three different countries. Although these products do not have a marketing authorisation in the UK, patients may have acquired these products in other countries or may have been informally distributed.  Any patients presenting with these products must be advised not to use them as they are unsafe, particularly in children.

The consumption of these contaminants can be fatal and lead to toxic side effects such as vomiting, diarrhoea, incontinence, headache, altered mental state and acute kidney injury.

Table 1 provides further information of the countries affected and alerts issued by the WHO. Each alert provides the list of medicines affected by these contaminants.

Table 1

Date Country Medications identified
5 October 2022 Gambia Full details of the medications can be found here
2 November 2022 Indonesia Full details of the medications can be found here
22 December 2022 Uzbekistan Full details of the medications can be found here

Key actions for pharmacy teams:

  • Familiarise yourself with the alerts issued by WHO and the affected medicines.
  • Read the MHRA news story on the contaminated products found in Gambia.
  • Remind patients to purchase medicinal products from reputable sources.
  • Advise patients presenting with any of these products that they must not use them.
  • If patients report using any of the medications above and have suffered from any side effects, they should be advised to seek further medical attention if required.
  • Any suspected side effects should be reported to the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme website.
  • Recommend suitable alternatives with a valid marketing authorisation in the UK or provide general counselling advice to patients for those that present with any of the listed medicines.
  • Ensure pharmacy teams are familiar with red flag symptoms for the reported toxic side effects (e.g., diarrhoea and vomiting) using the NPA Red Flag Factsheet Hub.

Further reading:

CRN 23-01-S01
First published: 27/01/2023