The Al Jazeera investigation into the pharmaceutical industry found that more than 30 medicines, including a common acne treatment, are made without the best scientific research behind them, leaving patients with less effective treatments.
The medicines that are sold without proper research are also used in other conditions, such as in surgery and the treatment of chronic pain.
In a letter to Health Minister Dr. Rana Javed Ali, the Al Jazeera team reported that “a growing number of medicines that were made with no scientific basis are being sold in pharmacies across the country”.
These include a common drug called ursodeoxycholic acid (UVA), a steroid that has been widely prescribed in the United States for acne.UVA is a steroid which is used to treat acne in children and adults, and it is not approved by the World Health Organization for use in adults.
In an email to Al Jazeera, the pharmaceutical company behind the product, Pfizer, defended the UVA, saying the drug is not marketed for use by anyone under the age of 35.
“As a company with more than 80 years of experience in the manufacture and distribution of prescription medications, we take great pride in our products, and we are working diligently to address concerns that the drug may not be safe for use for those under 35,” Pfizer said.
“We believe that the UVAs efficacy and safety profile is as good or better than any other FDA-approved drug and are confident that this drug will continue to be marketed responsibly and safely.”
In a statement to Al Arabiya News, Pfizers said the drug, “has a strong and proven safety profile, as it is approved for the treatment and prevention of acne, eczema, psoriasis and psorifics.”
“We are committed to being a leader in the global drug supply chain, and have always taken the position that we are committed not to make any drugs for use on our shelves that may contain potentially harmful ingredients,” Pfizers added.
The pharmaceutical company also said that the safety and efficacy of the drug in patients under 35 is the main concern, and that it would work to “ensure the safety of the product to patients as well as to the pharmaceutical manufacturers”.
The company also added that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a “clear and rigorous” process for approving drugs and will review the information it receives from Pfizer.
Al Jazeera’s Ali Abed, reporting from Baghdad, said that in the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of medications made with UVA and that “many people have been left behind.”
“In fact, there is no way to find out if a patient was prescribed this drug before they developed the condition,” she said.
The drugs made without proper clinical trials are also often sold without labeling warnings on their packaging, she added.
“They are often sold in a large, white box, with no labels and no warnings about what they are and what they’re not,” she explained.
“These medicines are sold at pharmacies without the knowledge of the patient, and this leads to many patients suffering for weeks or months without knowing if their medication is working or not.”
Many patients have no idea what is going on, or if their symptoms are really gone or if it’s actually causing any side effects at all.
“In Iraq, many people suffer from acne.
The Al Jazeera report said that patients can purchase UVA in pharmacies, but often their symptoms can linger for months.”
In some cases, the medicine is not only used to prevent acne, but is also being used to fight chronic pain,” said Abed.”
It is also used to reduce swelling of the skin, to treat the condition of joint inflammation, and to relieve congestion.