There are several ways in which medicinal products can be used (administered). A fundamental distinction is made between systemic and topical administration. Medicines that are administered systemically affect the entire body, while topically administered medicines only affect the part of the body to which they are applied (e.g. the skin).
The effect can vary
The effect of a medicine depends on the age, gender and physical condition of the patient and the stage of the disease. Furthermore, the composition of medicines based on the same active substance is often not identical, and this can modify their effect. They may, for example, contain different excipients, additives or colouring agents. The formulation may also be different: a product that one manufacturer supplies as a capsule may be sold by another only as a coated tablet or uncoated tablet. This may be enough to produce a different response in some patients. The doctor therefore decides on the basis of the patient’s medical history and diagnosis which treatment, and accordingly which medicinal product, is best suited to the patient’s needs.
Quality control is important
The patient must have the assurance that the medicine is of flawless quality. The manufacture of these products is therefore subject to strict regulatory controls. In Switzerland, this is the responsibility of Swissmedic. The cantonal authorities are also involved in this control function. Since the vast majority of the medicines produced in Switzerland are exported, their manufacture is also governed by international standards to ensure that medicines made in Switzerland are recognised abroad.
Swissmedic monitors the safety of medicines and establishes standards that must be observed. The five elements that ensure the quality of all medicines that come onto the market are: the requirement to have products authorised by Swissmedic; dispensing of medicines through specialist outlets or doctors; assignment of medicines to a dispensing category that reflects the associated risk; information for patients on the pack and in the patient information leaflet; and the expiry date on the pack. If a new adverse drug reaction (ADR) occurs while a medicine is being used, Swissmedic or one of the ADR reporting centres it has designated must be notified immediately. The same applies to ADR that are already known but occur unusually often. If action needs to be taken to maintain the safety of medicines following ADR reports, Swissmedic is responsible for this.