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Opening remarks by SFH on drug incidents

     Following is a transcript of opening remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, at a stand-up media session at the West Wing of the Central Government Offices today (March 23):

     The recent incidents on drugs have caused a lot of concern in the public, especially shattering confidence of our patients in drug safety and quality.  I fully realise that it is the concern of our public and that is the reason for our bureau, the Department of Health, as well as the Hospital Authority to have taken all the measures concerned to ensure that we can maintain a system that can restore confidence of our citizens.

     In the medium and long term, we announced last week that we will set up a review committee to look into the system and also the regulatory mechanism of medicine and drugs, and to look into ways to guarantee the integrity and also the code of practice of the trade.  We shall also examine whether it is necessary for the Government to amend its ordinance and regulations so that we can elevate the level of drug regulation in Hong Kong.  As this process would take rather complicated steps and consultations, we expect it would take about six to nine months.  However, if we discover any measure we can introduce in the short term, we will try to introduce it as soon as possible and announce it to the public as well as to the Legislative Council.

     In the short term, the Department of Health will continue to inspect all the pharmaceutical companies in Hong Kong.  We expect that they will complete the task this week.  So far, they have not discovered any abnormality.  They will mobilise their resources to step up inspections and strengthen communication with the trade.  Apart from meeting them last week, they have also sent letters to all the importers, wholesalers, drug companies and manufacturers to ensure they understand their responsibility and also the requirements of law to ensure the drugs produced, imported or on sale will be safe and effective.  The Deputy Director of Health will talk more about the details later.

     Regarding the Hospital Authority, apart from reviewing the process of procurement, they will also inspect and audit all the drugs and consumables in the hospitals and clinics to ensure they are safe and also of good quality.  We expect that the work be completed in one week.  They will also instruct all the staff concerned to increase their vigilance and sensitivity regarding the labelling and the usage of drugs to ensure the drugs given to the patients are safe.

     The Yau Mau Tei Clinic incident is caused by human factor.  The Hospital Authority will take appropriate actions.  They have also met the pharmaceutical companies and also pharmacists regarding drug safety.  They would also continue to have dialogue with various trades including manufacturers, importers as well as wholesalers later on.

     We know that the problem involves a wide range of aspects.  We are also concerned that apart from the public sector, we should also look after the private sector as well, including private hospitals, private doctors and retail pharmacies.  We should take every means to review what is necessary to ensure that the trade is safe and the products that are on sale or given to the patients are both safe and effective.  We understand that this is the wish of our community and also our responsibility.  We will try every means to ensure that we will rebuild the system of drug regulation and also control of safety of drugs in Hong Kong.  I will answer questions now.

Ends/Monday, March 23, 2009
Issued at HKT 18:42


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