By Catherine Sasman
Namibia’s own one-stop shop service and database providing information on medicines was launched in Windhoek yesterday.
The Pharmapeutics Information and Pharmacovigilance Centre (TIPC) was established to provide both proactive and query-response therapeutics information to health professionals, patients and the general public.
The centre is a reference unit on pharmacovigilance collecting, monitoring and disseminating information on adverse drug reactions – that is the side effects of all drugs available in the country.
“In this day and age of rapid development of medical treatments for various diseases, both infectious and lifestyle diseases, it is essential that all health workers have ready access to accurate, relevant and current medical information,” said Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Nobert Forster.
Forster said there is an increased need to better understand the way people react to medicines they use, including side effects of anti-retroviral treatment (ARV), tuberculosis and malaria medication.
These programmes, he said, receive fast-track approval for registration and use to speedily make life saving medicines available to patients.
“However, as a result of fast-track registration, it is likely that many rare adverse effects of these medicines were not picked up in pre-registration trials. This makes an effective cost-marketing surveillance system critical to ensure safe use of these medicines, especially in patients who are taking multiple medicines concurrently.”
The importance of such a service is illustrated by a catastrophic incident that occurred in Panama in 2006 when hundreds of people died as a result of using cough syrup containing a poisonous substance called diethylene glycol, which was a cheaper substitute for glycerine in cough medicine.
The TIPC has a dedicated staff trained to review a wide range of current and detailed information sources.
It collects and analyses data on real life adverse reactions to medicines, which Forster said is preventable in 80 percent of cases.
Further, the Medicines and Related Substance Control Act of 2003 requires that manufacturers and their representatives in Namibia keep records of all adverse reactions reported to them and submit these to the Medicine Control Council.
The law further stipulates that the prescriber has to inform the Medicines Control Council of any adverse effects of any of the medicines prescribed.
Since the National Medicine Policy was launched in 1998, steps have been taken to recruit staff to run the medicine information service.
In 2005 the Spanish Cooperation funded Medicos del Mundo approached the health ministry with a plan to develop one or more medicine information centres.
At that time the ministry worked with Management Sciences for Health’s Rational Pharmaceutical Management Plus to develop plans for such a centre. It was then agreed to combine the two projects to set up TIPC.
The first TIPC was established in March last year.
Augustine Odo, the medicine information pharmacist and TIPC coordinator said the centre has a three-pronged strategy: to provide information on the side effects of medication, the provision of information on poisons, and pharmacovigilance, which is merely to monitor side effects.
Information included is on choice of therapy, dosages, use of drugs by specialised groups like pregnant women, children and the elderly.
Information can be obtained on a 24-hour basis everyday at telephone number 061-2032312, or fax number 061-226631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.