Central and state drug regulators on Tuesday carried out a special drive against pharmaceutical companies allegedly producing spurious or adulterated medicines.

As part of the drive, authorities either cancelled licences or suspended production at 18 companies. Drug regulators also issued show cause notices to 26 firms.

The Drugs Controller General of India, along with state authorities, inspected pharmaceutical companies in 20 states on Tuesday.

The authorities have identified 203 companies to be inspected as part of the drive. Himachal Pradesh accounts for the largest number of such firms (70), followed by Uttarakhand (45) and Madhya Pradesh (23), according to PTI.

The drive took place in the context of concerns about the quality of drugs manufactured by Indian companies.

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

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

On December 27, Uzbekistan’s health ministry said that 18 children had died after consuming the Dok 1 Max syrup.

Last week, the authorities told Scroll that the manufacturing licence of Marion Biotech’s Noida plant has been cancelled by the Uttar Pradesh drug regulator.

In October, the Gambian authorities linked 70 deaths, most of them due to acute kidney failure, to four medicines – Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup – manufactured by Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

The World Heath Organization subsequently issued a global alert for the four brands of cough syrups. However, the Drugs Controller General of India claimed that the global healthy body drew a premature link between the deaths of children in the Gambia and the cough syrups.

Drugs Controller General of India VG Somani on December 13 said that the samples of the syrups were tested in government laboratory and found to be complying with specifications.