Suspicious drug to be administered to Zimbabwe school children

SOME parents have expressed concerns about a drug, Praziquantel (Biltriucide) set to be administered to school children this week,

SOME parents have expressed concerns about a drug, Praziquantel (Biltriucide) set to be administered to school children this week, saying there has not been enough sensitisation about its side effects.


The drug, used for the treatment of bilharzia and intestinal worms, is said to have been condemned in other countries but will be used to treat an outbreak of bilharzia and intestinal worms in the country.

The deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Paul Chimedza said his ministry received a donation of 11,5 million praziquantel tablets for the mass drug administration (MDA) around the country.

The ministry also received 5,5 million tablets of Albendazole enough to reach over 4,7 million children in 63 rural districts and two cities.

The MDA programme, which will run from October 28 to November 2, will be launched tomorrow at Tsungubvi primary school in Mazowe.

“The mass treatments are carried out at health facilities, designated schools, and other points of community convergence during the week long campaign,” said Chimedza.

“We also recognise the support in the provision of the much need pre-MDA meal from various organisations to reduce occurrence of side effects to the drugs.”

According to the internet drug index, RxList, before one takes praziquantel, he should inform a doctor if has kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, or a history of seizures or epilepsy.

“Do not give this medication to a child younger than 4 years old,” it says. “Praziquantel should be taken with a meal. Do not crush or chew the praziquantel tablet. Swallow the pill whole. Take this medication with a full glass (8 ounces) of water.”

Wikipedia also says praziquantel “is an anthelmintic effective against flatworms and it is not licensed for use in humans in the UK.”

It is however available as a veterinary drug.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns on its website, “inclusion of very young children” in mass treatment campaigns could prove disruptive and unsafe as there is currently no appropriate pediatric formulation of praziquantel.”

It adds pre-school children should be treated within childhealth services where their weight is monitored, they are immunised, dewormed and given micronutrient supplements.

That is not likely to be the cases at most of the schools where the drugs will be administered.

Parents said the ministry had not explained to them the possible side effects and they feared that some children suffering from heart or liver diseases, may be given the drug resulting in serious complications.

Last week, some schools sent notices to parents informing them to make sure that their children come to school on a full tummy. They asked the children to bring additional food to eat just before they were given the drug.

“We were just told us to sign the notices but they did not inform us about the possible effects of the drug,” said one parent who stays in Mt Pleasant Heights in Harare.

“What if my child has a heart or liver problem and we are not aware of that?”

Hazel Moyo of Harare’s Marlborough East suburb said that she was not aware of the programme and would not want her five-year-old son to take part in the exercise.

She claimed that in 2009, her sister lost her baby after she volunteered to have her immunised without full knowledge of the side effects of the drugs used.

Epidemiology and disease control (EDC) director, Dr Portia Manangazira said the both drugs could cause immune as well as cognitive behaviour.

“Children are encouraged to take food before the drug is administered to them and they should desist from taking part in activities that might induce fatigue,” she said.

She said children many also develop a rash or vomit.

A nationwide prevalence survey conducted in 2010 indicated that bilharzia and intestinal worms were a widespread public health concern affecting 57 of the country’s 63 districts.