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Ministry Struggles to Ensure Quality Food, Drugs

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Shortages of some drugs, their inappropriate use by doctors, unregulated circulation of pharmaceutical products, and chemically contaminated food are just some of the issues the Ministry of Health is seeking to address.

Deputy Minister of Health Mr Khamphone Phoutthavong noted the challenges in his opening remarks at a meeting on food and drugs held yesterday to review the sector’s achievements over the past five years and discuss future plans.

Food and drug experts from around the country and representatives from the ministries of Science and Technology, and Agriculture and Forestry are attending the three day meeting, which continues tomorrow.

Mr Khamphone highlighted the implementation of the health development policy and strategy over the past five years, saying several laws and regulations had been enacted and amended.

Other achievements included the quality guarantee system for food and drugs both before and post distribution, development of good laboratory practices, gaining ISO17025 accreditation, joint supply of drugs and medical equipment, centralised logistics, development of natural medicinal resources, the promotion and parallel use of modern and traditional medicine, and good manufacturing production (GMP) certification.

The deputy minister outlined the challenges the sector has to overcome in food and drug management. These included the s hortage of basic drugs at dispensaries and district hospitals, the inappropriate use of drugs or use of brand name drugs over cheaper generics, and the dispensing of antibiotics and stimulants by pharmacies without prescription.

According to the deputy minister, around 30 percent of drugs in distribution by private pharmacies were not registered with the government, medicine prices varied among hospitals, there was weak inspection of food and drugs at border checkpoints, and half of drinking water factories’ products were not registered.

Mr Khamphone also mentioned the shortage of personnel, technical facilities and coordination mechanisms as other challenges.

“If we don’t hurry up in addressing these it could affect consumers’ health and safety and in the future we could lose the advantage in joining the ASEAN Economic Community,” he said.

Speaking at the meeting, the ministry’s Food and Drugs Department Director General Dr Somthavy Changvisommith stressed that the government’s aim was to increase people’s ability to access quality food and drugs.

In her remarks at the meeting, World Health Organisation Health System Coordinator in Laos, Ms Monica Fong, noted that drugs were key elements in people’s daily lives, saying everyone expected that food and drugs should be of the same quality and would protect them against health hazards, including hazards arising from tainted food and substandard drugs.

“This is very important these days as we see increasing cases of antimicrobial resistance and the emergence of superbugs,” she added.

More than 1,700 drugs are registered with the department, and three pharmaceutical factories – Pharmaceutical Factory No. 3, CBF Pharmaceutical Factory, and Kodufa – were granted GMP certificates.

Around 50 percent of the drugs in circulation in Laos are manufactured locally and estimated to be worth US$11.7 million.

 

Source: Vientiane Times