By: Dr. Samantha Akakpo, Project Research Manager, Pharmacovigilance
(Above: Ifakara Health Institute Branch in Bagamoyo)
I was pleased to recently attend, in the role of a facilitator, a 4-week course on malaria to health care professionals (HCPs) at Ifakara Health Institute (IHI), Bagamoyo branch in Tanzania, which is a successful collaborative effort between the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and the Ifakara Health Institute. These two institutions bring a recognized wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of malaria, both in research and in implementation. Tanzania has been the host country for these courses, for several years.
The aim of this course is to strengthen competences of actors involved in the fight against malaria in endemic countries. Malaria is a deadly parasitic disease that affects more than 3 billion people worldwide, predominantly in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The Pharmacovigilance (PV)/Drug Risk Management topic was new this year, and was presented, among other modules, during 5 days, which included a lecture and workshops. The course provided the basics of pharmacovigilance, as well as the tools (e.g. signal detection, PV methods and processes, guidelines, safety data sources, reporting process, risk management plan setup, etc.) and objectives, along with specific case examples (e.g. examples of signal detection tools which can be used for anti-malarial drugs safety monitoring).
Antimalarial drugs’ risk management was emphasized, especially in LMIC, since more and more antimalarial drugs are developed and donated to these countries. However, quality control on-site is inefficient (due to the prevalence of counterfeit drugs) and regulatory capacity is insufficient. The use of artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) as a therapeutic tool to treat uncomplicated acute falciparum malaria has been promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), however, although the efficacy is known, its safety under large-scale operational use has not been fully assessed yet.
The PV/drugs’ risk management sessions were very interactive and raised the interest-level of all participants, facing different challenges in their countries, in terms of adverse event reporting and tools, safety data sources availability, safety monitoring of pregnant women and children (most vulnerable populations for severe malaria), etc.
The experience was very enriching and proved the importance of raising pharmacovigilance awareness in different settings of the world.
(Above: During a class, with participants from 16 malaria-endemic countries)
(Above: Bagamoyo Coast)