No system to check side effects of medicines: PM’s adviser

Updated Oct 02 2019


PM aide says unsafe injections are leading to deadly infectious diseases and leading to deaths. — AFP/File
PM aide says unsafe injections are leading to deadly infectious diseases and leading to deaths. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Tuesday admitted that there was no system to check side effects of medicines in Pakistan and no data was available about people who died or became disabled due to it.

Speaking at a conference, he said in the United States 10pc people were admitted to hospitals due to side effects of medicines.

The conference on ‘Pharmaco-vigilance: changing landscape of patient safety’ was organised by Pakistan Society of Health System Pharmacists (PSHP) in collaboration with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).

Dr Zafar said on an average every year eight injections were administered to each person in Pakistan.

“Moreover, 95pc injections are administered unnecessarily to patients. We are willing to collaborate with the PSHP to stop unnecessary use of medicines,” he said.

“Unsafe injection practices are leading to deadly infectious diseases as well as killing people or making them permanently disabled. In these circumstances, there is a need for having a strong system of pharmaco-vigilance or monitoring effects and safety of medicines,” he said.

Dr Mirza said he first came to know the lethal and adverse reaction of medicines when he visited Japan in 1993 and saw some 60-70 people who had become permanently blind and disabled by using a medicine which was a household name in Pakistan in those days. But nobody knew that it was causing serious neurological issues to people who were taking it regularly.

“That drug continued to be prescribed in Pakistan for the next 30 years but as there was no system of pharmaco-vigilance or monitoring of adverse drug reaction perhaps it kept on making people blind and caused disability to them like in Japan.”

Dr Mirza said he had set up a steering committee to give the country its first national medicine policy to reform the pharmaceutical sector to deal with issues related to access to medicines, safety and quality of drugs, regulatory and production issues, supply chain and human resource development in the area of medicine.

“In the next six to eight months, we would have the medicine policy. Following implementation of the policy, we would have a separate section dealing with safety and quality of drugs and deal with adverse drug reactions and related issues,” he said.

Drap Chief Executive Officer Dr Asim Rauf said efforts were being made to get the level-three certification from World Health Organisation (WHO) which was required for export of medicines.

“A system is being devised to save patients from the side effects of medicines,” he said.

Prof Albert Figueras from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Pharmaco-epidemiology, Spain, said people in Pakistan should know that ‘drugs are not candies’ and they should not be taken without the advice of certified medical practitioners and trained and qualified pharmacists.

“They should be taught that except for a few over-the-counter drugs, majority of drugs can kill them, make them permanently disabled and ruin their lives.”

PSHP President Abdul Latif Shaikh said safe medication was the integral part of an effective healthcare system.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2019