Thursday, December 6, 2007

Consumers’ Advice to Tanzania Minister of Health and Lawmakers

By Bernard Kihiyo

At the 60th World Health Assembly held between 14 and 19 May 2007, member governments agreed an important new resolution on the rational use of medicines.

The resolution included a call on all member governments:

‘to enact new, or enforce existing, legislation to ban inaccurate, misleading or unethical promotion of medicines, to monitor drug promotion, and to develop and implement programmes that will provide independent, non-promotional information on medicines;’

Drug companies are moneymaking corporations just like any other; they exist to create a profit. The overarching aim of corporate drug promotion, therefore, is to increase profits by raising consumer demand for pharmaceutical products.

Whilst the pharmaceutical industry clearly has an important role to play in tackling the health challenges facing Tanzania, their involvement in the promotion of medicines presents a serious conflict of interest.

Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) believes this is a vitally important area for the safety of health service users (consumers). We would be very interested to hear how the government is planning to put the WHO resolution into practice.

The Mission of our organization is to provide advocacy platform that would make consumers voices heard, raise consumer’s awareness on their rights (in this case health related rights), build consumer’s ability to claim for their rights and make markets (in this case pharmaceutical industry) accountable and more responsive to consumer’s needs and interests.

Tanzania market has been flooded with unreliable pharmaceutical with plenty of counterfeit, expired and unregistered drugs worse still those who are involved on running most of local pharmacies and medical stores are lacking essential professional skills in running this business.

It is beyond reasonable doubt that most of us we have seen complex medical cases of alleged negligence by way of consultation, diagnosis, cross infection and treatment, both medicinal and surgical that led to severe suffering of service recipient, and in some instance death.

It should be strongly noted that all health professionals who are providing their services based on knowledge, skill and experience but the deficiency or negligence while providing these services can’t be exempted from consumer’s damages, suffering or death. Consumers and their families have to be well compensated if in case of these sort of professional misconducts happen.

It is equally important that health professionals are held responsible due to their professional negligence. Kindly this is a wake-up call to you honourable minister of health and our lawmakers; you have to do something tangible for the betterment of Tanzania consumers.

Executive Director of TCAS
With the Support of Consumers International (CI)

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