Jakarta. The actual number of young children dying from atypical acute kidney injury (AKI) can be five times higher than the official government data as health authorities are investigating the cause of a sudden surge in kidney injury cases, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday.
The Health Ministry reported that 133 children have died from a total of 241 cases of acute kidney injury among children in 22 provinces over the past 10 months.
New cases have been increasing sharply in the last few months in line with a rapidly growing number of fatalities among children aged five years or younger.
"The undetected death toll can be three or five times bigger than our data. What we can detect is the hospital data which reveal 35 to 40 deaths per month -- and counting," Budi said at a seminar in Jakarta.
Paracetamol and cough syrups are potentially linked to acute kidney failure among children and the government took a stern measure to ban the sale of syrup medicines until further notice, he said.
On Thursday, the Drug and Food Supervisory Agency or BPOM ordered the recall of syrup medicine brands for containing an unsafe amount of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG).
Budi said health officials attended the home of child patients with AKI and also hospitals that have treated them to investigate their medication history.
“And yesterday we announced preventive and conservative measures by temporarily banning medicines that potentially pose health risks,” Budi said.
Health authorities have been on a high alert since August when the death toll hit 36 in one month, while normally there were only one or two fatal cases of AKI among children, he said.
"In September we suspected pathogen infection as a possible cause,” the minister recalled.
But then there were reports of possible links between the consumption of syrup medicines and the growing number of acute kidney injuries among children in The Gambia.
Budi said the government has imported medications for AKI in large quantities from Singapore.
"We have received the medicines and used them on six patients, with four of them responding positively," Budi said without going into details.