Editor's Comment

Quality assurance critical

THE seepage of Paracetamol with wrong specifications into the country and subsequent administration to citizens is an anomaly which can have grave consequences on patients.
Such an omission raises questions on an otherwise robust health delivery system and may reduce confidence patients have in life-saving medicines.
Much as it is gratifying that the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) has acted decisively to recall all the Paracetamol with wrong specifications, it is inconceivable that such a drug was allowed into the country.
ZAMRA is a body mandated by law to analyse all the medicines before being dispatched to any health institutions. We fully understand how challenging the task may be, given some logistical and operational difficulties the authority may face, but it is imperative that medicines patients consume are cleared.
That is because falsified and substandard drugs may contain toxic doses of dangerous ingredients and cause mass poisoning. Poor quality medicines compromise the treatment of chronic and infectious diseases, causing disease progression and may lead to death.
Questions, therefore, arise: Did ZAMRA certify or clear the Paracetamol in question? If it did, how did the medicine find itself with the supplier, Honeybee Pharmacy? If ZAMRA did not clear it, how then was it found with Honeybee?
Unless these questions are clearly answered by the authority, revelations that there is such a potentially dangerous drug in circulation will remain shocking.
It is also difficult to put the blame beyond ZAMRA because it is its duty to check the suitability and safety of medicines before dispatch to health institutions.
As Medical for Quality Healthcare in Zambia says, there is a possibility that such a drug which supposedly went through all nodes of approval could cause harm to patients.
Given the sanctity of life, it is only fair that citizens are not exposed to such drugs. We are also of the view that appropriate action should be taken against the organisation responsible for allowing such a drug to be consumed.
Zambia’s disease burden is already too heavy to bear. There is the perennial malaria, HIV and AIDS, lifestyle diseases plus the newest puzzle – COVID-19.
Government is committing millions of Kwacha to overcome these diseases. A huge chunk of the budget is allocated to health because of its paramountcy.
However, seemingly small but negligent acts such as allowing a wrong drug on the shelves negates all these great efforts Government is making to ensure the health care service delivery is improved.
The country has already strategically positioned itself for medical tourism in the region and beyond through highly-trained health personnel and a plethora of health institutions nationwide.
That is why quality control of medicines, whether manufactured locally or imported, should be assured. Any shortcoming should be rectified through rigorous systems we believe have been put in place.
What is comforting, however, is the fact that a countrywide recall of the drug has already been instituted.
ZAMRA, in the meantime, should follow up the matter to ensure proper conclusion and take to task the manufacturer, being the culprit-in-chief.

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