Home OPINIONS Adopt a multifaceted approach to deal with regulation of medicines

Adopt a multifaceted approach to deal with regulation of medicines

Recently, the government ordered for the fresh round of verification of licenses for pharmacies and Agrovets by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) and Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

The government, through the CS Interior, Kithure Kindiki says the crackdown is necessitated by a marked increase in the abuse of drugs and other illicit substances. The campaign, initiated by DP Rigathi Cachagua’s war against alcoholism, has now spread to cover the regulation of medicines for both human and veterinary use.

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For the veterinary profession, concern has been raised about the misuse of anesthetics such ketamine and xylazine for recreational purposes, as supported by the new report from the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA).

This exercise goes well beyond general law enforcement as it has implications for the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine.

While some controlled veterinary medicines are used for recreational purposes posing a significant threat to public health and safety, this is not just an issue in Kenya but for other jurisdictions such as the US and UK where different formulations of anesthetics are abused by being mixed with other substances such as heroine.

NACADA also notes that drugs intended for animal use end up finding their way into hands of individuals who seek to abuse them contributing to the proliferation of substance abuse.

The misuse of veterinary medicines not only has consequences on public health but also on animal welfare and food safety. The practice where drugs are used and obtained without proper veterinary oversight, contributes to antimicrobial resistance, an urgent public health crisis. This practice also jeopardizes the public trust bestowed upon veterinarians as per their oath to protect both human and animal life.

For this crackdown to succeed, it requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the supply and demand of the drugs as well as access to health.

The wanton use of Prescription Only Medicines (POM) does not happen in a vacuum-it reflects our societal norms and values. We love shortcuts and quick riches as society, and this just a representation of that.

Primary healthcare in Kenya seems to be a preserve of the wealthy and those in urban areas. Large areas of Kenya lack even basic healthcare facilities such as dispensaries and veterinary offices. In such localities, agrovet and chemist assistants play the role of medical and veterinary doctors filling a void the government ought to have filled. How do you turn away an ailing patient for lack of a prescription when the nearest medical centre is 70km away?

Furthermore, relevant regulatory bodies including the Kenya Veterinary Board and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate should enforce the government directive humanely.

Giving professionals and businesses a reasonably extended period to regularize will lead to better compliance. The long lines witnessed at the two agencies as vets rushed to beat the deadline are a sign that our members are willing to comply. Extending this period is necessary to ensure order compliance that focuses on compliance instead of harassment.

I am also opposed to the Kenya Drug Authority Bill that is currently in the senate and senators to reject the Bill’s push to revert the regulation of veterinary medicines to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

Before the creation of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the practice of veterinary medicines was beset with problems as all the board PPB was interested in was collection of license fees. The board either lacked capacity or interest in the key facets of regulation including pharmacovigilance.

Kenya should not rush adopt practices in the US, and instead should follow precedence in the commonwealth or the European Union. The US has some of the most conservative regulatory laws and hence we shouldn’t use the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) as a template. In fact, most other jurisdictions including the UK and Canada have ensured control of veterinary medicines rests with veterinary professionals.

Rather than pushing for a reversion of roles, stakeholders should push the government to build the capacity of both the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to ensure better regulation.

 

The writer is a Veterinary Surgeon

Dr. Kelvin Osore
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