Thinley Namgay 

Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) is conducting an online campaign on the side effects of medicine to mark the Med Safety Week, which began on November 25.

The social media campaign facilitated by 57 medicine regulators from around the world attempts to raise awareness on the side effects of medicine and the importance of reporting them to ensure the other patients do not experience similar side effects.

The theme this year is Polypharmacy, and the safe use of medicines among the elderly people and those with complex health conditions.

According to a press release from DRA, Polypharmacy is the simultaneous use of four or more prescription, over-the-counter drug or traditional medicines at the same time.

Polypharmacy increases the likelihood of a patient to have side effects due to the interactions between multiple medicines with food or herbal products.

The World Health Organisation’s report on medication safety in Polypharmacy states that the most vulnerable patient groups to the risks of polypharmacy are prone to drug–drug interactions, adverse drugs reactions, cognitive impairment, non-adherence and poor nutritional status.

DRA’s regulatory officer, Dawa Tshering, said that people having hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and HIV consume more medicine than others and they are more vulnerable to medicine side effects.

“In general, if we take more than four different medicines, side effect can occur to all groups of people. But people over 75 years are more susceptible as they are battling more diseases than the young ones.”

He said that if a person feel some discomfort after consuming certain medicine, it is important to report to concerned authorities.

Karma Yuden from Tshangkha in Dagana have been suffering from Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome since last year. It is a disease where blood starts clotting and affects the heart, brain and other body parts.

“It is a lifelong disease. Medicine can only help reduce the blood clotting,” Karma Yuden said, adding that she used to consume four types of medicine. “Doctors have recommended me to take only one type of medicine now.”

DRA official said that the authority has received about 500 reports of side effects so far. The reports are usually from pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurses and doctors.

Dawa Tshering said that the side effects are unintended effects of a medicine occurring at doses normally used in humans, which is related to the inherent properties of the medicine.

He said that all medicines have side effects, but people may or may not experience it depending on their personal health conditions. “All medicines are safe as they go through a rigorous process of ensuring safety and effectiveness. Side effects occur at normal doses and are an inherent property of the medicine.”

Based on the Medicine Act of Bhutan 2003, DRA ensure that all the medicines are registered with DRA before it is distributed to the health centres.

“After distributing to the health centres, we go for the inspection to make sure that the medicines are kept in proper containers under required humidity and temperature,” said Dawa Tshering.

A total of 2,011 medicinal products are registered with DRA so far.