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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Nicotine gum temporarily pulled off pharmacy shelves in Qatar

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Nicotinell gum
Nicotinell gum

With reporting from Heba Fahmy

Several pharmacies across Doha have pulled a brand of nicotine gum off their shelves in what appears to be a nationwide recall of a specific batch.

The brand, UK-based Nicotinell, has been unavailable for the past three days, according to a pharmacist at the Villaggio branch of Khulood Pharmacy.

Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“Ministry officials came by and took all of our stock, but we’re not sure as to why. We just got an email from our (parent company) saying that someone would be coming in to take the product off the shelves,” he said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to Dr. Hosam Al Sherif, the purchasing manager for International Medical Co., the parent company of all Khulood pharmacies around Doha, the move came following a directive from the Nicotinell company based in the UK.

Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“It’s a second level recall. What this means is that the company has recalled all product from the distributor, who in turn has taken back all of the product from the retailers.

He added that a first level recall would have been serious, because the product would also have to be taken back from customers, but that is not the case here.

“It seems that there was some specification issue – something to do with product design or manufacturing process. The gum is completely safe for consumption though. There is no issue with the actual gum itself,” he said.

Al Sherif added that other products including nicotine patches and lozenges  manufactured by the same company are still available across the country.

No official statement has been posted on Nicotinell UK’s website, and representatives were not immediately available for comment.

However, in a tweet to Doha News, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) said “the withdrawal came voluntarily from the manufacturing company, as it wanted to make some changes and adjustments in the (gum’s) components.”

“We’d like to stress that the reasons of withdrawal are not related to the safety of the product,” the SCH added.

Effects

The sudden move appears to have left many recovering smokers in Qatar frustrated, as Nicotinell is one of the only brands of nicotine gum sold in the country.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In an email to Doha News, an Arab-American expat who asked to remain unnamed said that he visited four pharmacies on Thursday looking for the gum, but had been turned away with no explanation as to why the product was out of stock.

“Nicotine gum is a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) used by many who wish to stop smoking cigarettes and I’ve been using it as a healthy but costly alternative for a while,” he said.

“Due to this action I had no choice but to buy my first cigarette pack in several years and (am) back to cigarette smoking,” he said.

Despite ongoing efforts from health officials, smoking rates appear to be rising in Qatar.

Some 12 percent of the country’s population aged 15 years and above have said they currently smoke tobacco. That’s up from 10 percent in 2013, the latest Global Adult Tobacco Study found.

Have you been affected by the recall? Thoughts?

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