The Ministry of Health has issued an alert on the recall of blood pressure and heart medication. This follows an alert to a precautionary product recall from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Valsartan, a medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. The recall is due to the discovery of an impurity in these brands which may cause cancer. We spoke with Chrystal Samouje, the assistant procurement manager for the Ministry of Health about how it would affect users of the medication in Belize.
Chrystal Samouje, the assistant procurement manager for the Ministry of Health: We were alerted by several different agencies for example, The World Health Organization and the European Medicine Agency. We also actually got communication from several manufacturing companies requesting a recall of their product. Based on the importation data that was available at the Ministry of Health we identified two companies or two manufacturing companies in the country that have been importing into Belize and as the press release has stated it is DENK and ACTAVIS. At the moment those are the two that we have identified. We have been importing medication from these companies since 2017 so it is believed that the contaminated batches are available in Belize at the moment. What we have done is we have been working along with the importers and the wholesalers to ensure that all the stations that came from these two companies have been removed off the shelf from various pharmacies and hospitals and they are to be destroyed, we are working along with the importers to ensure that will happen. If a patient is on any product contains Valsartan they should try to get in contact with their health care provider so they can go to their doctor or their pharmacists so they can have their medication reviewed. We are not recommending that patients stop their medication at this time, what we want them to do is just get in contact with their health care provider so they can go to their pharmacist. They can go to the doctor, take their medication along with them and they can get it reviewed by the doctor or pharmacists and the doctor or pharmacist is going to give you further guidance. Remember that it is not all the medication in the country that has been contaminated, that has the contaminated VALSARTAN in it.
Dalila Ical: So then there are other brands. to put it simply, there are other brands available for patients.
Chrystal Samouje, the assistant procurement manager for the Ministry of Health: Yes there are other brands available for patients to use. The agencies are in the process of reviewing the data to see the exactly how it would affect persons that have been exposed to this contaminants, what would be the amount that the patient would have to consume before they can be affected by this contaminant, what’s the effects of being exposed to this contaminants and so on.
The Ministry states that the European Medicines Agency EMA has recommended that patients continue taking the Valsartan medicine until they contact their doctor or pharmacist as there is no immediate risk.