[health-vn] Unnecessary side effects, medicine abuse rampant in hospitals
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Tue Mar 31 11:47:55 EST 2009
Last Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2009 23:18:32 Vietnam (GMT+07)
Unnecessary side effects, medicine abuse rampant in hospitals
People buy medicines from a pharmacy on Hai Ba Trung Street in Hanoi. Hospitals
in Vietnam tend to overuse injections and prescribe too many vitamins, experts
said at a conference in Hanoi. More than 2,000 cases of patients suffering
medicinal side effects were recorded in hospitals nationwide last year, and most
of them could have been prevented, a conference in Hanoi heard Wednesday.
Experts attending the conference that aimed to promote awareness of side effects
and abuse of medicines said Vietnam lacked a professional system to track the
side effects of medicines and provide timely feedback to health authorities and
They also warned that many hospitals in the country were going overboard in
administering injections and prescribing vitamins in treating patients.
Hoang Thanh Mai of the Health Ministry’s Drug Administration office said of the
more than 2,000 cases of side effects reported last year, 46 percent were caused
by antibiotics, 3.5 percent by vitamins and 2.7 percent from traditional medicines.
However, she said these were statistics randomly reported by hospitals.
Health Minister Cao Minh Quang admitted information on medicines’ side effects
collected so far has been mostly based on sponsored studies.
The tracking and information on drugs’ side effects ended when the sponsorship
ended, he added.
Quang also said information available on results of clinical tests run on
medicines had been insufficient in many cases.
“Many medicines had to be revoked shortly after they’d been approved because the
side effects were more dangerous than their therapeutic value,” he said.
David Lee of the Center for Pharmaceutical Management, an international
nonprofit organization, also said clinical tests of many medicines have been
limited in terms of scale and duration.
The medicines, therefore, should be tracked after being sold to evaluate
possible harmful effects and therapeutic properties, he said.
He cited several examples of unpredicted harmful reactions to several medicines,
including Aminophenazone (or amidopyrine) - which caused the killing of white
blood cells; Erythromycin estolate - which adversely affected the liver and
bile; and Thalidomide – which could lead to birth defects in children.
Up to 19 percent of patients admitted to hospitals suffer harmful side effects
from prescribed medicines but around 70 percent of these can be prevented, he added.
Abuse of injections and vitamins
The Drug Administration informed the conference that all hospitals nationwide
had a committee tasked with supplying enough medicine as well as managing their
quality and proper use.
However, Nguyen Thi Phuong Cham of the Health Ministry’s Diagnosis and Treatment
Department said many committees hadn’t fulfilled their responsibilities.
“Many committees have not produced regular and timely reports on the harmful
side effects of medicines,” she said. “Moreover, the market mechanism has had a
bearing on some doctors in prescribing.” (Doctors are given commissions by
pharmaceutical companies for prescribing their medicines, and tend to favor
products that fetch them the highest commissions.)
A research study on the use of medicines at the Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi also
found high rates in the use of injections, in as many as 82 percent of 1,800
Some wards in the hospital were using injections in all their treatments.
Around 50 percent of patients worldwide are prescribed injections and 90 percent
of these cases are unnecessary, experts warned the conference.
Many hospitals in Vietnam also prescribe a large quantity of vitamins, for
between 70 and 100 percent of its patients.
“This is an abuse of vitamins, which can have harmful effects,” said Tran Nhan
Thang from Bach Mai Hospital. “Advertising may have contributed to the overuse
of the vitamins.”
Le Viet Hung, principal of the Hanoi Pharmaceutical University, said several
research studies and surveys had found doctors prescribing up to six medicines
for one patient, exposing the patient to potential harmful effects from their
Reported by Nam Son
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