Authorities in Uzbekistan have alleged that distributors of an Indian-manufactured cough syrup that resulted in the deaths of 65 children in the country bribed local officials to skip mandatory testing, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The development came as the central Asian country put 21 people on trial, including one Indian, for the deaths and made public a higher toll than what was previously reported.
In December, the Uzbekistan health ministry said that 20 children had died in the country because of side effects from Dok 1 Max Syrup produced by Noida-based Marion Biotech Limited. Investigation showed the cough syrup contained ethylene glycol, an organic compound known to be potentially fatal.
The authorities have now increased the toll to 65 but not clarified why 45 deaths remained unreported since the incident came to light.
Among those put on trial in Uzbekistan include three executives, including the Indian national, of Quramax Medical that sold medicines produced by Marion Biotech in the country.
State prosecutor Saidkarim Akilov alleged that Quramax Chief Executive Officer Singh Raghvendra Pratar paid $33,000 [around Rs 27 lakh] to the officials of the Centre for Expertise and Standardization of Medicinal Products to skip a mandatory inspection of his products.
Pratar denied the charges but admitted to handing over the money through an intermediary as a “token of appreciation”. He claimed he had no idea how the money was used later.
It remains unclear whether these inspections were to be held in Uzbekistan or by Marion Biotech in India.
According to Reuters, seven of the 21 persons accused in the case have pleaded guilty to at least some of the charges against them, including tax evasion, sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines, abuse of office, negligence, forgery and bribery.