Rwanda to step up vigilance on drug side effects

A pharmacist searches for drugs on shelves in Kigali on May 13, 2019. Crash Bahizi.

Rwanda is set to increase vigilance on the side effects of drugs.

Officials from the recently-created Rwanda Food and Drug Authority (RFDA) say that in not more than two years’ time, a system to receive citizens’ reports on anomalous effects of drugs will be in place.

“We want to put in place a reporting system. Whether on our website or through other systems, we will provide a platform for people to report what might not be going well with a particular drug they are using.

“For instance, when you use a drug and get a rush, you will be able to notify us through the system, and we shall start following up,” said Joseph Kabatende, the Head of Department for Food and Drug Assessment and Registration.

Established just in February last year, the RFDA acts as a regulatory body for foods and drugs in the country, working to ensure their compliance with quality standards relating to the manufacture, storage, sale, distribution, use, import and export, labels, packages and raw materials used in the manufacture of products.

Kabatende said the institution is still trying to build its structures and capacity, looking for employees with the technical know-how, after which they will be able to establish a good reporting and regulatory system.

He also hinted on coming up with applications, which people may download on their mobile phones and use them to report the problems experienced with certain drugs.

“Some countries are already doing it, we are also building our own system,” he said.

According to Kabatende, in the build up to this system, a division responsible for Pharmacovigilance (monitoring the effects of medical drugs) has been set up in the RFDA.

“We want to build capacity in hospitals, public or private, health centres. We want medical practitioners to be cautious to the fact that delivering information about drug effects is necessary, and it is their responsibility,” he said.

“We also want to put in place different committees so that when any problem concerning a particular drug happens anywhere, we can take immediate action which may include suspending usage of that drug,” he added.

He noted that Rwanda has not started manufacturing drugs locally, which calls for good regulatory measures to check the quality and standards of the drugs imported.

“Many drugs we use here are imported from China, India, and elsewhere. So if we don’t put in place well-built systems, they can cause problems,” he said.

“We are giving ourselves a timeframe of not more than two years to set up systems and structures to make sure that every aspect of adverse events, or side effects, is properly reported, analysed and communicated,” he added.

According to Dr Charles Karangwa, the Director General of RFDA, government will also regulate the prices of drugs.

“We will sit down with pharmacy owners and agree. We will ask them how much they buy the drugs, and agree on their profit margin.

“We will put the prices into a system for the citizens to see. We will publicise it so that pharmacies will not be pricing as they please,” he said.


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