New vigilance for medicines coming into Belize

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A Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) mission was in Belize last week to assist the Pharmacy Unit to understand, access and enhance our performance capacity to develop a pharmacovigilance system for Belize. The first full day discussion with the team in Belmopan included presentations on the country’s public health and regulatory context as well as representations from the visitors on performances and challenges in pharmacovigilance systems in other countries.
In monitoring the effectiveness and safety of medications, the Ministry of Health is being assisted by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority MHRA of the United Kingdom. This body regulates medicines, ensures that they work and are acceptably safe. The MHRA focuses in core activities of product licensing, inspection and enforcement.
Belize’s new Food and Drug Act has been created to ensure that safe medications are coming into Belize. So, PAHO’s visit last week was received with great welcome.
“It is ensuring that we are using the right drug for the right disease and the right dosage…we are ensuring that at the patient level that they don’t have an undesired effect and in addition to that we are reporting to our international stakeholder, [such as] PAHO,” says Samira Gongora, the acting Technical Advisor at the Pharmacy Department.
Mick Foy, Head of the Pharmacovigilance strategy in the UK also said that the plan is to move from the current system into a new system to protect patients from harm that medicines may cause.
Experts from the Ministry of Health shared with the PAHO team the epidemiological profile of Belize. From their PowerPoint, we gathered that the leading causes of death is due to non communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Also, the maternal mortality rate is 149 per 100,000 live births. The under five mortality rate is 14.7 per 1000 live births. Of note is that the leading cause of morbidity includes complications of diabetes, hypertension, complications of childbirth and communicable diseases such as acute respiratory infection.