Withdrawn drugs – our patients deserve better

Patients are dying because of year-long delays in withdrawing dangerous drugs from the global market, according to Oxford University researchers.
They say that the danger could be reduced by better reporting of the deaths, and quicker action by manufacturers and regulators.

Unbelievably, the time between the first death being reported, and the drug being withdrawn, has not changed since 1957, even though deaths are reported earlier these days

The average time for withdrawal is four years.

Surely, better international coordination amongst regulatory authorities is well overdue.

Between 1957 in 2011, more than 400 drugs were withdrawn from the market. Of these, 95 were identified as withdrawn because deaths were attributed to the drug.

Most were for neurological or psychiatric disorders, followed by analgesics and anti-inflammatories, cardiorespiratory drugs and antimicrobial drugs.

The researchers also note that there are discrepancies in the patterns of drug withdrawals in different countries, with greater delays in places like Australia.

These delays and discrepancies could be mitigated by encouraging prescribers and investigators to report serious, suspected adverse reactions, by swifter regulatory action when reports appear, and by better international coordination of reports.

As usual, competing interests may play a role in influencing the pattern of drug withdrawal, even when deaths are associated.

A recent analysis of five of the largest private global health foundations concluded that board member’s interests and donor’s investments (including those from pharmaceutical companies) are potential conflicts-of-interest that need to be addressed, in order to prevent a distortion of science and public health outcomes.

In the demands for controls over complementary medicines, let’s create a level playing field, and seek some “get your own house in order” agreements from those who seem to have “holier then thou” attitudes in health.

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