Ample information needed for drug recalls

Saturday December 14 2019

A pharmacist displays a pack of Life Guard

A pharmacist displays a pack of Life Guard condoms at his pharmacy in Kampala, Uganda on November 19, 2019. AFP PHOTO 

By Editor

In the last month, the National Drug Authority (NDA) has made two recalls. The first was on Life Guard condoms in November. The Authority cited poor quality as the reason for the recall.
The second recall, which happened on Wednesday, was on 14 brands of drugs. Although the Authority hinted at the recall being because of quality issues, its secretary also described it as a “normal thing in regulation”.
NDA’s guidelines on the recall of a medical product indicate that besides providing the details of the product, the reason for initiating the recall should be stated.
They also state that the Authority should indicate the health risks involved with clear reasons.
With the condoms, the reason was clear. The risks involved and a clear call to action was made for anyone who had used the condoms, including details of batch numbers.
However, the recent drug recall leaves several information gaps. While we know the 14 drugs and what they treat, it is not clear why they are being recalled and what the implications are for anyone who has already used them.
When the secretary was quizzed about why these recalls are happening, his response was a little too flippant.
He suggested that we should be applauding NDA instead of asking these questions. On one hand, yes, we do applaud the Authority for getting products whose quality is wanting off the market. That is the NDA’s mandate after all.
On the other hand, however, given the skepticism that has surrounded medical products, particularly vaccines, recently, it is important not to flame this fire.
That fire is the fear that we have poor quality medical products on the market, especially if these products are subsidized or readily available at public health facilities.
If information on the reasons behind a recall are scanty, it leaves room for people to come up with their own explanations as to why the drugs are being recalled.
Most of these explanations are conspiracies that feed the perception that it is better to stay away from all kinds of medical treatments all together.
This does not bode well for efforts to get people to seek treatment –preventative or otherwise. Not to mention the ripple effects this can have.
The NDA should therefore ensure that poor quality medical products do not get to the market in the first place. Where they do, NDA should be more forthcoming with information in the event of a recall.
In the instance of the 14 drugs that were recalled, giving people information on the dangers they might face if they consumed the drugs in question, and what to do about it would go a long way in putting people’s fears to rest.