27/2/2012

Dear Livifem Ladies,

Yippee! It looks as though your hot flushes, headaches and general feeling of being unwell should be over soon. You can get back on the pill.

This hormone replacement is expected to be in South African pharmacies again within the next few weeks. That’s what Hein Garbers the Marketing Manager of Merck Sharp & Dohm (MSD), the new distributor, has just told me.

Hopefully his next few weeks won’t extend into months.

As you know Livifem disappeared without warning, virtually overnight almost six months ago. This caused panic among thousands of women who had been on it for years. They rightly castigated the departing supplier Adcock Ingram on the internet.  Did anybody care? What’s all the fuss, it’s only a pill my dear. Women, like my wife Gayle, were expected to sweat it out while Adcock put out a statement that explained nothing to the average sufferer. Adcock is headed by Dr Jonathan Louw, who should know better than most people how devastating it can be for someone if the medication they have been on for ages is suddenly withdrawn.

But that didn’t stop his company dashing your hopes by saying that it was not in a position to supply a number of women’s health products including Livifem until further notice. A great comfort that was.

It went on to tell you that this was due to the fact that aspects relating to product-related documentation had to be updated to comply with regulatory global requirements. What did that pompous wording mean to the average person?

In a letter to The Star newspaper Susan Mynhardt summed up my sentiments perfectly when she described this as exceptionally bad management and extremely poor customer service. It was a shocker. And to make matter’s worse Adcock tried to make out that it cared about the health of all you women when it came out with this pathetic, badly worded statement, The decision has been made with due consideration of the medical needs of Livifem, and all the other affected women’s health products. It seems the whole debacle came about because MSD, a worldwide pharmaceutical giant took over the distribution of Livifem in South Africa from Adcock, the firm that had done it for as long as anybody could remember.

Adcock has been operating in South Africa for 120 years; is quoted on the Stock Exchange and accounts for 10% of the private pharmaceutical industry.

So you would have thought that somewhere in the ranks of these two firms there would have been at least one person capable of ensuring that the change over went smoothly without compromising the health of the many women who had come to regard it as a lifesaver.

The change involved mundane things like getting updated inserts approved by the SA Medicines Control Council. Did nobody know that the process could be expected to take some months to complete?

You would have thought that the simple remedy would have been to give doctors and pharmacies a six month warning of the impending change so that their patients could stock up with the drug. Would that have been too logical?

These two ponderous leviathans seem to have forgotten that patients are the people who keep them in business. Had they been a doctor their bedside manner would have decimated the practice.

But just because they sell a product that people get hooked on they mustn’t think they can go on treating patients with the kind of indifference displayed in this case. That’s a prescription for getting a taste of their own medicine don’t you think ladies?

Anyway for Gayle’s sake and all you other women, who have had such a rough time recently, I hope you get better treatment soon and that Livifem finally does materialise.

If these drug companies give you any more trouble ladies, give them big stick on Twitter, Facebook etc, because that’s the best way to get them to treat you right. Then of course you could also make sure that wherever possible you are not taking anything that they produce.

Best wishes,

Dearjon LetterJon, a Consumer Watchdog whose bite is worst than his bark.

“Fair comment… now the pressure is on not to disappoint. Enjoyed the blog. Added it to favourites.” Andrew Nicolson MSD’s Primary Care Marketing Manager.

Latest – Andrew tells me Livifem should be available in large pharmacies now and smaller ones in a couple of weeks.

About Dearjon Letter

I was born in South Africa just before the Boer War whenever that was? Started life with a golden spoon in my mouth which made eating rather difficult as a result I was under nourished as a child. Went to a posh school where I only got moved up a class when my old man donated another sight screen for the cricket pitch. Career prospects were dismal and I was once turned down for a job in the London sewers. “Too highly qualified;”that’s what they said. I became a journalist when the Police Force wouldn’t have me. Like most journos I know nothing about everything but I still write about it. I decided to have my own blog so I wouldn’t have to drink with the editor for hours on end to get my stuff published when according to my independent assessment it’s always of great news value. My religious beliefs are: You only die once so remember, “You can’t be serious and Have Fun.” NEWS FLASH: I’ve just been appointed the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman by Presidential Decree (Not to be confused with the PRESS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA’S, SA Press Ombudsman)

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