Hospital bans prescription of antioxidant drugs and nutritional supplements for cancer patientsMost doctors prescribe them even though the products are of no use for cancer patients, experts say.
The Bharatpur-based BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital issued a statement on September 20, barring its doctors from prescribing antioxidant drugs and nutritional supplements to cancer patients.
“Antioxidant drugs and nutritional supplements cannot be prescribed to our patients. In case such drugs are essential, they can be prescribed only through the MD or a senior to the MD,” reads the statement issued by Dr Jaya Shrestha, head of the Oncology Department at the hospital.
“These drugs are not important and have no use for a cancer patient,” Dr Shrestha said, striking out the names off the prescription for Chandra Prasad Mainali, a cancer patient from Jhapa. Shrestha finds doctors regularly prescribing such drugs.
Such products, which are easily available in the pharmacies, are not registered at the Department of Drug Administration. The Department of Food Technology and Quality Control permits their sale in the market.
Shrestha argues that antioxidants and nutritional supplements are generally prescribed with the belief that they help in the healing of some illnesses. But these drugs have serious repercussions on a patient’s health. “Some oncologists even claim that the antioxidants and nutritional supplements can rather complicate a patient’s health condition,” said Shrestha, clarifying his decision to ban those drugs at the hospital. Patients tend to increase the intake of such drugs instead of consuming natural foods, fruits and vegetables. This can become harmful for patients in the long run, according to Shrestha.
The use of these inessential drugs also burdens the patients financially. According to Shrestha, a patient has to spend around Rs 10,000 extra to follow such prescriptions. “The only people who benefit from these drugs are the pharmacists,” said Shrestha.
Dr Bhojraj Adhikari, vice chairman of the Nepal Health Research Council, agrees with Shrestha. “The antioxidant drugs and nutritional supplements are generally prescribed to patients suffering from chronic diseases. These drugs have no use and can even have a negative effect on a patient’s health. There is always the risk of patients using these drugs ignoring vital medicines,” said Adhikari, demanding that the government authorities should monitor the sale of such drugs in the market. “But if doctors stop prescribing these drugs and supplements, the use of them will automatically decrease,” he said.
According to the Department of Drug Administration, these supplements do not contain enough nutrients, according to a laboratory test conducted by the department two decades ago. “A notice had been published in the Nepal Gazette in 1992-93 to ban their use,” said Pan Bahadur Chhetri, acting director general of the Drug Administration. “We have banned these drugs but the food department allows them,” said Chhetri.
The administration is in talks with the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control on the matter, he said.