Wed, 07 May 2003

Drugs withdrawal confusing

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government's recall of 100 nutritional supplements produced by Pan Pharmaceuticals of Australia has caused confusion among vendors and consumers because of a lack of information on the decision.

An employee at the Sumberwaras drugstore in Tebet, South Jakarta, Linda, said she was confused by the government's order to pull the products from the shelves.

"We still have six nutritional supplements produced by a number of Australian companies, including Pan. I don't know whether only the Pan products will be recalled or all of them," she told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

One woman said she sometimes purchased imported herbal and vitamin pills.

"They are not Pan Pharmaceuticals products, but are manufactured by an Australian-based company. I don't know whether they are still safe to use because there is no information about the products.

"For now I've decided to stop using supplements, imported or not," she said while making a purchase at another drugstore in Tebet.

The Food and Drug Monitoring Body (BPOM) ordered the recall after Australian authorities suspended Pan's license over allegations the company used raw materials that had not been tested for safety and that it had manipulated laboratory results.

Many users of Pan's products have reportedly become ill, in many cases seriously, suffering from hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.

Canberra ordered Pan, the country's largest nonprescription drug company, to halt operations for six months and recalled 668 of its products, many of which are exported to dozens of countries.

Marius Widjajarto of the Indonesian Health Consumers Empowerment Foundation urged BPOM to provide more information to put an end to the confusion among vendors and consumers.

"It was a lie when BPOM chairman Sampurno said that none of the recalled products could be purchased over-the-counter anymore, because many of the distributors registered with his office are fictitious. So how can he say all of the products were recalled within a day?" he said.

Meanwhile, Ida Marlinda of the food supplement division at the Indonesian Consumers Foundation advised people that according to the consumer protection law they were entitled to return the recalled products, along with a receipt, to the store from which they were purchased for a refund.