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Contaminated medicines (Cough Syrup) in Cameroon

25 Jul 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) have issued a medical alert about a batch of substandard (contaminated) medication identified in Cameroon. Substandard medical products are products that fail to meet either their quality standards or specifications.

The affected medication is NATURCOLD Syrup, with active ingredients listed as paracetamol, phenylephrine hydrochloride & chlorpheniramine maleate. The combination of these three ingredients are used to relieve symptoms associated with the common cold, flu, and allergic rhinitis.

Samples of this syrup were found to contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol contaminants which can be toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal.

Further information about this adverse event, including the affected batch numbers of medication are detailed the WHO medical product alert

Advice for Travellers

Substandard and falsified (counterfeit) medical products are a growing problem that occurs throughout the world. A wide range of counterfeit medicines are available, including painkillers, antimalarials, antibiotics, blood pressure medicine and vaccines. 

If during travel, you require medication for a new illness or condition, you should:

  • only purchase medicines from a reputable pharmacy or medical facility whilst you are abroad and always obtain a receipt
  • inspect packaging closely for signs of poor-quality printing, spelling or labelling, which may suggest counterfeiting
  • avoid obtaining medicines from people or suppliers which are not linked to a reputable pharmacy or medical facility

If you take regular or intermittent medications, you should obtain these in the UK before you travel, especially if there is any cause for concern about the legitimacy of medications or medical products at your destination. This includes if you are recommended to take antimalarial medicines.

Whenever possible, you should take sufficient supplies of your medicines with you to cover the duration of your trip, including a little extra to cover potential delays. 

  • If you are travelling with children may wish to bring medicines from the UK with you to alleviate symptoms such as mild pain, cold symptoms and/or fever.  

In the event that you may need to purchase medicines abroad (for example, if your trip is extended, your medicines are lost or stolen or your planned itinerary is changed) then, in addition to the advice above, you should:

  • carry a copy of your prescription with you which should include both the generic and brand names of any medicines you are taking
  • ask the pharmacist about the active ingredient in the medicine you are purchasing and check that it is the same as your own medicine

See the fitfortravel Counterfeit Medicines and Travelling with Medicines pages for further information.