The Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) yesterday received an incineration facility intended to dispose of pharmaceutical waste, counterfeit drugs as well as other unwanted products imported into the country by unscrupulous business people.
The facility is located in Careysburg, Montserrado County, and comprises of two small and two large modern incinerators. They were donated by the French Charity, Medecin Sans Frontiers (MSF), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
LMHRA Executive Director, David Sumo, said the cost of the facility is about US$1.5 million.
Mr. Sumo described the facility as a “huge contribution to the reconstruction of the health sector,” when partners turned over the facility.
“This is another contribution to the resilient health system that the government wants to build or is in the process of building,” Mr. Sumo said.
“The facility will have a lot of impact because this is one challenge that the regulatory authority has been faced with: how to get rid of substandard drugs that are sometimes confiscated from street peddlers and some pharmacies.”
The facility, he assured, will be used to “clean up the mess in the health sector.”
According to Mr. Sumo, when a country lacks such a facility, the only means of burning or incinerating counterfeit drugs is to dig large holes into which the drugs are deposited and burned with gasoline acting as an accelerant.
He said the ‘little,’ and only incinerator that the LMHRA had on the Bomi highway is operated manually, as opposed to the new facility, which uses electricity.
“We all have been concerned about the rational use and handling of counterfeit or damaged pharmaceutical products. In order to avoid these products from landing in the hands of unauthorized people, you have to properly dispose of them,” he said.
“In time past,” Mr. Sumo said, “the methods used to dispose of pharmaceutical wastes were not proper, because in many cases, it had negative environmental impacts. So in order to do it professionally by reducing negative environmental impacts, we secured these incinerators from partners. And we think they would go a long way in helping us to properly dispose of the wastes.”
“We do so as one way of contributing to public safety and public health. We encourage all those who have supported and those who are to support this effort to sustain these equipments and make them work properly. It is our hope that as time goes by, people from other countries will even come to Liberia to learn how we dispose of our pharmaceutical wastes, because this is a big challenge in West Africa,” Mr. Sumo said.
One of the two incinerators was provided by MSF, while the other was donated by ICRC. Each of the smaller ones cost a little over 140,000 Euros.
For its part, MOH donated a high voltage secondhand generator to be used at the site where the unwanted items would be disposed of.
Sumo keeping the incinerators in operation is another huge challenge that the LMHRA is faced with as each of them uses over 250 gallons of fuel.
USAID Health Officer, Ben Zonner, and the Technical Officer for Pharmaceutical assigned with the World Health Organization (WHO), Mauricio Arango, urged the LMHRA to make good use of the facility by getting rid of substandard or expired drugs from the market.