News 24, New centre to be 'Aids monitor', 7 September 2004

Pretoria - A centre dedicated to detecting adverse effects of anti-Aids drugs, including traditional medicines, was launched outside Pretoria on Tuesday.

The pharmacovigilance centre, based at the Medical University of SA in GaRankuwa, will seek to identify, assess and prevent adverse reactions to antiretroviral drugs as well as complementary and traditional medicines used by adults with HIV/Aids.

It would also provide training and information on the safe use of anti-Aids drugs, and develop systems to assess the risks and benefits associated with different treatments.

"This institution is established to protect and promote the interests of patients and the public," said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at the launch.

She said the investigation and collection of data on adverse drug reactions was one of the biggest challenges facing many developing countries.

But efforts were underway to encourage healthcare professionals to report such reactions, and to enhance data collection.

Monitoring effects on mothers, children

"This should help us to better understand the safety profile of medicines and to document associated morbidity and mortality," said.

The new centre would work with a similar one in Bloemfontein that monitored the effects of antiretroviral drugs on children and pregnant women.

The two institutions were set up as part of the government's management, care and treatment plan for HIV/Aids.

Tshabalala-Msimang said patient monitoring was vital as antiretroviral drugs could become less effective if not administered properly. Some drugs had toxic side effects.

"We do appreciate the need to extend life while the search for a cure for HIV and Aids continues," the minister said.

"We need to make sure our research responds to public health concerns."

If information became available regarding potential risks associated with certain drugs, this would be shared with health professionals and patients, she added.

"The risk and toxicity profile of antiretrovirals needs to be understood in South African settings and the complexities associated with various regimen should be continually assesses and managed appropriately and responsibly."

Edited by Iaine Harper




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