Withdrawal of medicines?

Muna Al-Fuzai

Medicines usually go through multiple processes until they reach patients. The most important of these methods is their official approval by competent authorities for their use. The medicines usually get marketed in some countries or all over the world, and sometimes patients suffer some side effects and risks with their use, so withdrawing them is required until alternatives are found to protect people’s health.

Assistant undersecretary for drug and food control affairs at the health ministry Dr Abdullah Al-Bader announced that the department has suspended and withdrawn some ranitidine medications, including the innovative formulation Zantac, for the treatment of acidity and reflux, as a precautionary measure, based on the preliminary results of analyses that were carried out in the laboratories of the department of registration and control. The US Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission on Medicines have said some of these medicines are likely to be carcinogenic.

“The international health authorities are currently studying and determining the permitted safe proportions of NDMA in food products and pharmaceuticals,” Bader said, adding that until the completion of these investigations, ranitidine medications are being withdrawn in order to ensure the health and safety of patients. Patients were advised to consult their doctors for the use of available alternatives and to report any side effects of pharmaceuticals through the drug side effects reporting form on the health ministry website.

I think the MoH did well by suspending the use of the drug, and I hope that patients who take medications continuously, especially people with diabetes and blood pressure, should follow medical updates because the price is their life. The ministry must inform people of developments that may appear.

I think people’s awareness of the side effects of any medicine is important, especially since sometimes some people buy drugs that may be unlicensed through social media. This I believe is very dangerous. So I was very pleased to read that ministry of health recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the GS1 Foundation to start activating the system of accurate tracking of medicines and medical supplies by barcode. This system tracks medicines and medical supplies accurately from the manufacturer through the stores and pharmacies until they reach the patient, according to a ministry statement.

I sometimes see some private pharmacies exaggerate the offers of their products, whether cosmetic or medical, to encourage people to buy. The ministry of health should not allow non-pharmacists to display medicines and products and sell them to the public due to the seriousness of the matter. I hope MoH distributes leaflets to patients at government hospitals and clinics with medical updates and latest news people need to learn about.

It is natural that the withdrawal of any medication, especially for those who use it for long periods of time, is worrying, but these patients should consult with their specialist doctors for other safe alternatives. I think the issue of withdrawing unsafe medicines requires public awareness and careful follow-up by the ministry of health.

By Muna Al-Fuzai