The Uttar Pradesh Police on Friday arrested three employees of a Noida-based pharmaceutical firm whose product has been linked with the deaths of 18 children in Uzbekistan in December, PTI reported.

The arrests came after a first information report was filed against five officials of Marion Biotech, including two of its directors on Thursday night. It was based on a complaint filed by a drugs inspector of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization.

On December 27, Uzbekistan’s health ministry had said that 18 children died after consuming Dok 1 Max syrup manufactured by Marion Biotech Limited. Two days later, the Indian government had said that samples of the medicine have been sent for testing.

On January 12, the World Health Organisation recommended not using two cough syrups – Dok 1 Max syrup and Ambronol – produced by Marion Biotech, on account of their “substandard” quality.

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The global health body said that both syrups “contained unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants” as per laboratory analysis carried out by authorities in Uzbekistan. The two organic compounds are fatal and can attack the nervous system.

In the complaint filed on Thursday, the drug inspector said that central and Uttar Pradesh drug authorities checked samples of Marion Biotech’s drugs and found that 22 of them were “not of standard quality”.

Vijay Kumar, the in charge of the police station where the FIR has been fired, said that those arrested have been identified as Head of Operaration Tuhin Bhattacharya, Manufacturing Chemist Atul Rawat and Analytical Chemist Mool Singh.

“The two directors of the company are at large,” Kumar added.

In October, the World Health Organisation had also issued a medical alert against four cough syrups manufactured by Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals after linking it with the death of 70 children in Gambia.