A survey by the Kenya health ministry on non-communicable diseases estimated that blood pressure complications such as heart failure affect over 60 million people worldwide with about 4,000 locals dying. A good number of this is adults above 65 years.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) posted a statement in January about hypertension drugs containing a chemical causing skin cancer on its website and shared the information with key players in the market who include healthcare providers warning them against prescribing the drugs.
In 2018, PPB recalled all drugs containing Valsartan after being detected to contain a potent carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) that has been reported in Europe as bearing potential cancer risk.
Valsartan was being used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, available on its own or in combination with other active substances. A growing global trend saw governments recall valsartan-containing medicine that originated from Chinese firm Zhejiang Huaha including Kenya.
The World Health Organisation affirms NDMA contains as cancer-causing agents and should not be included in any blood pressure drugs. In the statement posted in January, PPB noted the hypertension drugs contain hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), a chemical associated with skin cancer.
Yet some pharmacists in major cities in the country are still selling cancer causing hypertensive drugs some with the inventory piled up in their stores without informing the consumers the product is not fit for their health.
“The pills retail at Sh2 to Sh5 in seven pharmacies in Mombasa, five in Nakuru and nine in Nairobi that the Nation visited. These chemists are still stocked with the drugs, and the only question asked to a buyer is: ‘How many pills do you need?'” noted Daily Nation
Some pharmacists stopped dispensing the hypertensive drugs soon after the statement was made public, while others have only learnt about recently. Since the statement offers no guidance, the pharmacists are waiting on official communication on what to do with the drugs from the board.