Dhaka, Bangladesh
Medicines that hurt

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Medicines that hurt

IT is tough to decide whether this is a reassuring or a disturbing sign. On an alert by the European Medicines Agency, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has asked nine pharmaceutical companies to recall medicines for high blood pressure in the country. It seems the EMA has detected an impurity — N-nitrosodimethylamine, a probable carcinogenic — in the valsartan active ingredient supplied to manufacturers in parts of the European Union and in Pakistan. Drap officials say the action proves their efficiency — which should, in theory, provide Pakistanis with a reason to feel safe. However, the feeling is short-lived when there is so much else to consider within the local context. In a report that appeared yesterday, a Drap official told this paper that 95 per cent of all medicines available in the country are manufactured with raw material imported from abroad. Next he dropped a bombshell by saying there is no system in Pakistan to monitor the quality of raw material that goes into the making of medicines, while voicing objections to the very lax rules which allow an importer to get a licence and enter what is actually a very sensitive business. With rules so lenient, we are treading on thin ice where public health is concerned. Drap has in recent times loudly claimed expertise in monitoring drugs sale and manufacturing in the country. The least that can be expected of the authority is that it is able to test raw material and finished medicines. The pharmaceutical companies are required to contribute to a research and development fund. There is no reason why some of the fund cannot be utilised for the purpose of monitoring the making of the drugs. But for all this to happen, the authorities in Pakistan must first demonstrate the will to guard the people here against all kinds of malpractices. The suspicion instead is that no one is concerned about how the drug makers and sellers are playing with human lives. — DAWN

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