In an unprecedented move, officials from the Department of Medical Sciences surprised local commuters by offering complimentary assessments of blood pressure and oxygen levels at the Ministry of Public Health outpost located on the MRT Purple Line in Nonthaburi, earlier this year in May. This unique initiative was cheered by many (even captured vividly in a photograph by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill) and was hailed as an ingenious step towards public health awareness.
Running parallel to this, a significant and concerning development has emerged in the pharmaceutical industry. The esteemed Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of medical treatments, has recently issued a recall of 42 separate batches of high blood pressure medication from five distinct manufacturers. Their reasoning? Contaminants found in these batches that could potentially cause cancer.
The atypical contaminant, azidomethyl biphenyl tetrazole (AZBT), has been found in specific versions of a drug known as irbesartan. Commenting on this worrying scenario, Dr Narong Aphikulvanich, who is the acting secretary-general of the FDA, clarified that the recall only involves those types of irbesartan that have been found to contain the aforementioned impurities. He reassured the public that other versions of the drug, which are certified by the FDA, remain safe for consumption.
In line with its mandate, the FDA has instructed the manufacturers of irbesartan to carry out thorough investigations into the presence of these impurities. Consequently, substances containing AZBT must be replaced with non-AZBT alternatives and a comprehensive recheck of the drug’s distribution pipeline is also in order.
This directive from the FDA emerged in response to irbesartan ingredient samples obtained from multiple manufacturers. Detailed examinations carried out by the Department of Medical Sciences unveiled that some versions of the drug contained impurities that enhanced the chances of developing cancer. Notably, these risks were found to exceed internationally recognized safety standards.
The recall directive from the FDA extends to all spheres of the medical fraternity, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and even the original drug manufacturers. Amid these sweeping measures, the FDA also offers advice to patients already taking the high blood pressure medication. Reiterating the importance of consistent treatment in hypertension management, the FDA advises against abruptly discontinuing irbesartan.
However, caution is advised for patients. They should meticulously examine their medication for possible contaminants. The five pharmaceutical companies impacted by this recall, who also distribute the nine irbesartan batches with AZBT impurities, are mentioned as TO Chemicals Co Ltd, Siam Bheasach Co Ltd, M&H Manufacturing Co Ltd, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, and Sriprasit Pharmacy Co Ltd.
The events surrounding this recall serve as a compelling reminder of the continuous vigilance needed in the sphere of public health. The FDA’s quick actions highlight the importance of ensuring the safety of medical treatments and their commitment to the public’s health.