Dodging the Astra by a whisker

Doctors, pharma federation in dark about UK-based pharma’s recall of anaesthetic drugs Xylocaine and Sensorcaine.

Published: 10th March 2012 12:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:32 PM   |  A+A-

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(Express News Photo)

HYDERABAD: Three days after the Indian wing of the UK-based pharma major Astra Zeneca recalled two of its most popular anaesthetic drugs, Xylocaine and Sensorcaine, anaesthetists of top hospitals in the city have expressed ignorance of the recall.

Even state-level drug federation officials remain clueless about the issue. What has instead saved unexpected complications in patients and helped the situation pass by without a glitch, is the lack of new stock of the drugs in most hospital pharmacies, which has forced the doctors to rely on similar purpose drugs of other manufacturers such as Neon, Triokka and Celon.

In a nutshell, the lack of awareness among those actually administering the drug, has been thankfully offset by the lack of product in hospital pharma shops.

Doctors play it safe

Defending themselves, doctors in hospitals such as Apollo have claimed that any hospital worth its salt would always stock up on 2-3 different brands of the same purpose drug as part of Plan B. “We have always made sure that we are not uni-dependent on any drug and so we have enough alternate drugs for use. But yes, for the past couple of days, our pharmacy has been citing a lack of new stock of the drug in mention. We weren’t aware of the reason, though it hasn’t affected any operations as such,” said an anaesthetist with Olive Hospitals. Anaesthetists with Apollo Hospitals and Global Hospitals also explained that only a certain batch of any drug is usually affected.

“Chances are only the hospitals or drug dealers which had stocked up on the particular batch must have been notified. That’s why we have not been personally notified about the recall,” was the common response.  

Committee members of The Federation of Drug Traders, Andhra Pradesh, have also expressed ignorance, saying they were not intimated by the pharma company. “Astra Zeneca failed to issue any circular regarding the recall. If we had been issued with the circular, we would have passed it across to every distributor and wholesale drug dealer in the state. But I’m only now coming to know about such a recall. Anyways, the pharma company is a trusted one and it has handled the issue ethically by recalling the drugs, through a public medium,” said B Venkatraju, President of the federation, who also thinks he may have been in the dark about the issue since his wholesale shop doesn’t deal with the particular drugs in question. His thoughts were echoed by general secretary of the federation, J Satish Rao, who confirmed that only the pharma companies which deal with the company on this particular drug have been notified.

Pharmacies almost save the day

“The drugs have been out of stock for three days, and returned to the company. Astra Zeneca itself has asked us to continue using the alternatives of other brands, until they sort the issue,” said a salesman at the Yashoda pharmacy at Somajiguda. Apollo pharmacies in the city also confirmed that they had been notified about the internal audit which took place at Astra Zeneca and the resulting drug recall.

But even as pharmacies within city limits take stock of the situation, a few pharma shops in the peripheral areas of the city such as Chandanagar and Kukatpally promptly confirmed the availability of the recalled drugs upon enquiry, putting forward a blank face on the whole recall issue. “We have the ointment of the said drugs. It costs just Rs 40-60 depending on which one you want”, said the owner of a shop near Miyapur. Shops in King Koti too said that they had not received any recall notice, but realised only now as to why the sale of the two drugs had been almost nil in the past few days, negating the absence of any notice.

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