The CEO of Quramax Medical stated in court Wednesday that he gave an Uzbekistan official $33,000 after prosecutors alleged that the company paid a bribe to circumvent the mandatory testing of a contaminated Indian cough syrup that killed 65 children. The company that manufactured the cough syrup was India’s Marion Biotech, and the medicines were sold by Quramax. Marion Biotech’s manufacturing license has since been canceled by authorities in India’s Uttar Pradesh state following the deaths.
As a result of the deaths, which were first reported in December 2022, 21 people have been put on trial, and seven defendants have pleaded guilty to several charges, including sale of substandard or counterfeit medicines and bribery. The indictment alleges that documents submitted for the registration of Marion Biotech’s cough syrup, Doc-1 Max, as well as drugs Curarax 200 and Curarax 400 “were unreliable, incomplete and not notarized.”
Prosecutor Saidkarim Akilov said during trial that Quramax Medical CEO Singh Raghvendra Pratar made the $33,000 bribe to officials from the State Centre for Expertise and Standardization of Medicinal Products. Reuters reports that Pratar denied the charges, claiming that the funds were “a token of appreciation.”
On 11 January 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a Medical Product Alert in relation to the contaminated cough syrup that was identified in Uzbekistan and reported to WHO on 22 December 2022. The Medical Product Alert noted that “Laboratory analysis of samples of both products found unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and /or ethylene glycol as contaminants.” Both of these compounds are toxic and potentially fatal to humans when consumed.
Uzbekistan has 31/100 score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index which rates countries on a scale of zero to 100, where zero means “highly corrupt,” and 100 means “very clean.” Uzbekistan’s score improved by 3 points from 2021 to 2022.