Self medication for malaria is dangerous – Ramsammy warns
– 53 percent of the medicines fail ‘quality assurance tests’
Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has warned that the practice of self-medication is very dangerous and presently affects the fight against malaria.
In a recent interview with this newspaper, the Health Minister said that there are very strong and effective medicines for the treatment of malaria, all of which are available free of cost from the public health sector.
However, they can only be dispensed after a diagnosis is made.
“I must emphasize that all the medicines procured by the Ministry of Health are from manufacturers licensed to manufacture these medicines and all the medicines have undergone rigid quality assurance testing before we procure them. It is required that all importers of medicines ensure that the medicines they import have been tested and approved for sale. We are concerned at the Ministry of Health that people sometimes chose not to see a health care provider and self-diagnose,” said Dr. Ramsammy.
This newspaper understands that many persons have become “less fearful of malaria and self- medicate” which is a very dangerous practice. Due to this practice the sale of malaria medicines in the private sector has become a thriving business in the hinterland areas.
In the past, Guyana was known to have an average of 92,000 malaria cases per year but with the continued fight against this epidemic by the Ministry of Health, coupled with assistance from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), this figure has now been broken down to a mere 10,000 cases per year.
According to Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, the Health Sector is continuing its struggle to ensure that malaria does not get out of control again and though it is doing as much as possible, there needs to be cooperation among all stakeholders.
Kaieteur News understands that more than 90 percent of malaria cases come from Regions One, Seven and Eight while a few cases emerge from some parts of Regions Two, Nine and 10. Malaria cases in other Regions are deemed ‘rare’.
Almost all of the malaria cases treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) come from one of the regions identified to have a large outbreak of the scourge.
Minister Ramsammy stated that with the help of PAHO/WHO and USAID, his Ministry was able to conduct a survey of 45 pharmacies and shops in Regions One, Two, Four, Seven, Eight, Nine and 10.
There were 77 specimens of anti-malarial artemesinin-based medicines which were examined in the United States of America (USA).
He continued that for people who prefer to merely buy malaria medicines from these places instead of going to the health care facilities, they should note that the medicines they buy might be useless.
The Health Minister explained that the survey revealed that 53 percent of the medicines (44 out of the 77) failed one or more of the ‘quality assurance tests’ which were carried out in the USA.
In addition to this, the medicines were found to be stored in “inappropriate conditions” which would eventually make them less effective, thus, even if the medicines passed the quality assurance test, the storage conditions would have rendered them ineffective in curing malaria.
“One of the encouraging signs from the study is that the previous practice of importing monotherapy artemesinin seems to be reducing as more than 64 percent of the pills were combination pills, with artemesinin and other malaria medicines in a single pill” said Dr. Ramsammy.
He also expressed the hope that more importers of medicines desist from importing artemesinin monotherapy into Guyana. These importers are also encouraged to discuss with the Health Ministry and seek advice on where they should purchase medicines and what kinds of medicines to import.
“It should be noted that the anti-malaria medicines found in these shops do not adhere to the National Treatment Guidelines for Malaria,” stated Dr. Ramsammy.