Aussies order 219 health products off the shelves


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 30 Apr 2003

By FARIDAH BEGUM and SUSAN TAM

PETALING JAYA: Australia ordered the recall of 219 products by Pan Pharmaceuticals and suspended its licence after a series of safety and quality breaches. 

Malaysia said it would follow the move to recall the medical products, which include vitamins, health supplements and non-prescription drugs. 

Health Ministry parliamentary secretary S. Sothinathan said Director-General would issue the notice to recall the products today.  

Australia’s largest product recall also prompted Singapore to warn its citizens to refrain from taking non-essential health supplements made by Pan Pharmaceuticals until the all-clear was given. 

Pan Pharmaceuticals has its own range of products and makes others for export and repackaging. 

According to Reuters, Australia accused the country’s largest maker of herbal, vitamin and mineral pills of harmful safety and quality breaches. 

Canberra's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) also cancelled Pan Pharmaceuticals’ approval to supply 1,650 products for export. 

Australia said it launched an investigation into Pan Pharmaceuticals in January when 19 people were hospitalised after taking its travel sickness pill Travacalm, and dozens of people reported adverse reactions, including hallucinations that made some people try to jump out of planes. 

Pan Pharmaceuticals, on its website, said about 40% of its sales was from exports. New Zealand, Asia and Europe account for about one-third of export revenues and US sales were growing. 

It said it also made some over-the-counter medicine including paraceta¬mol, codeine and antihistamines.  

Its chief executive Jim Selim said the firm was working to comply with the agency’s regulations and would seek legal advice on the TGA decisions. 

"We anticipate that once the TGA is satisfied that the production processes meet requirements, the agency will lift the suspension of the manufacturing licence." 

Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard urged Australians not to panic over the recall. 

"We are making as much information available to the public as quickly as we can. I ask people not to panic ... I think it would be unduly alarmist to say that death is possible," Howard said. 

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) urged the Health Ministry to immediately ban all the 219 products. 

"This is a stern warning to all herbal medicine produced in Malaysia. All allopathic medicines are tested for safe¬ty, quality and efficacy," MMA president Datuk Dr N. Athimulam said in a statement.  

He said that a code of ethics had to be observed by agents of companies dealing in traditional medicine. 

Fomca president Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan said if the country of origin had suspended the manufacturing licence of the company, there should be no second thoughts by Malaysia to recall the products immediately. 

"We should not wait until someone is diagnosed with side-effects before ordering the recall," he said. 

Checks with local distribu¬tors and importers showed that they were aware of the Australian recall and were preparing for similar moves here. 

A spokesman from Cambert Sdn Bhd said it would be prepared to call back its products when it receives confirmation from the Drug Control Authorities. 

Another pharmaceutical company, Duopharma (M) Sdn Bhd, said products manufactured by Pan Pharmaceuticals for it were negligible but it would recall stocks of existing products. 

A retailer said 21st Century Products had contacted all chain stores to prepare for a recall of its products. However, no company official was available for comment. 

Information on the recall from the official site of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

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