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Sun 16 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Physicians draw drug blank with Ministry of Health

The UAE's Ministry of Health (MoH) has come under fire for out-of-date vaccination schedules and for failing to communicate with physicians over drug alerts and shortages.

The UAE's Ministry of Health (MoH) has come under fire for out-of-date vaccination schedules and for failing to communicate with physicians over drug alerts and shortages.

Physicians have claimed the MoH failed to send updates following rosiglitazone (Avandia) scares, or when tegaserod maleate (Zelmac), indicated for use in irritable bowel syndrome, was pulled from the market.

Clinicians, instead, were reliant on local press reports for updated policy statements from the Ministry.

Medical Times was sent documents from a Dubai-based physician, who had written to the Ministry to request an update on prescribing guidelines for rosiglitazone.

A second request asked for information regarding a prolonged shortage of the adult diptheria-tetanus vaccine. Neither letter received a response.

"This vaccine hasn't been available for more than two years in the private sector and I have repeatedly tried to find out why," she said. "With no direct guidance from the Ministry of Health, I can't advise patients. It's very frustrating."

Dr Alya Ahmad, paediatrician at the American Primary Care Clinic, Dubai, expressed concern over the current vaccine schedule endorsed by the Ministry.

"It is at least 15 to 20 years old, with very minimal requirements for all schools. We make up the difference and offer a lot of vaccinations that are not strictly required by the WHO, but are recommended."

As a result, too few people are vaccinated against communicable diseases and incidence reporting is sporadic. "We actually see cases of hepatitis A here, and I see cases of chickenpox all the time."

"There are no requirements for flu. There is a lot of underreporting of disease incidence and of adverse reactions to vaccines."

In a statement Dr Ali Al Sayed Hussain, director of the pharmaceutical services department at the Dubai Department of Health, said he was aware of a shortfall in adult DT vaccine but blamed the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, for the current shortage in the market.

Ramzi Mushrek, a spokesperson for Sanofi Pasteur, said the company had been attempting to import the vaccine but a glitch in the registration process was holding up the delivery. The company expects the vaccine to be available to the private sector in a few weeks.

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