-US$300K substandard, counterfeit drugs confiscated from several local pharmacies
The managing director of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHPRA), David Sumo, has alarmed over huge substandard, and counterfeit drugs imported from Guinea into Liberia, due to the porous border problem between the two countries.
Mr. Sumo made the statement yesterday during an engagement with newsmen in Monrovia, when he said substandard and counterfeit drugs are not unique to Liberia, as authorities have experienced the history of identifying falsified medicines in the public health sector.
“We have very porous borders, for which today people can be seen selling drugs in the street, especially in buckets and mini-drugstores. We also have serious smuggling taking place, by which many of the drugs continue to come into the country. Guinea has one of the biggest markets of substandard drugs in the region,” he said.
According to Sumo, many of the business people leaving for Guinea to buy peppers and other commodities use the opportunity to buy substandard and counterfeit drugs and bring them into the country, stating that “ they bring them in large quantities by trucks.”
He said it is capital intensive for LMHPRA to monitor, identify their locations and confiscate the substandard drugs brought into the country. He stressed the need for those sending medicines to Liberia follow the right international procedures to ensure that Liberia does not continue to market substandard and counterfeit drugs.
Mr. Sumo said the recent raid by the LMHPRA and the Liberia Pharmaceutical Board led to the confiscation of over US$300,000 substandard and counterfeit drugs and they remain committed to ensure that Liberia is free of substandard and counterfeit drugs.
He named Irene Pharmacy at Wroto Town junction, A. J. Kolleh quality medicine store Waterside, Blessed Pharmacy in Waterside, Port Pharmacy at Freeport Bushrod Island, A & H Pharmacy Fiamah, and Nurse’s Medicine Store in Fiamah among others are involved in selling expired, damaged, falsified and counterfeit drugs.
He further called on pharmacy and health institutions to properly store the drugs. He emphasized the need for the public sector procurement and other health centers to buy medicines based on quality and not only on price, as relying on price will lead to buying substandard drugs and thereby endangering the patients.
According to him, joint efforts will help in addressing Liberia’s substandard and counterfeit drug problem, stating that if people are not schooled, they should not be allowed to sell drugs as the population is being put at risk.
“We can easily control the situation by instituting effective border monitoring to ensure that people who are coming with medications can have documents to show that they have been given the authorization to do so or be stopped by border’ security. Again, Liberia does not have a local manufacturing company and so all the drugs are being imported into Liberia,” Mr. Sumo said.
“The regulation is in the interest of the people, because patients may not know what to buy and those medicines bought may just be ineffective or substandard, thereby causing harm for patient. We need to also ensure that we provide information to healthcare practitioners and to the population for the misuse and abuse of sensitive drugs,” Mr. Sumo said.
Mr. Sumo added that the drug tramadol is currently being misused against the interest of the public health and it is becoming a global concern, including in the West African region. According to him, the LMHPRA is working to address the situation.
“Young people in Liberia continue to buy dangerous drugs to take for personal satisfaction and not for the intended purpose. However, these products are not illegal, but legitimately they are necessary for interventions for people who are sick. Tramadol, for instance, is meant to deal with severe pain, which ordinary pain killers cannot handle and the World Health Organization is seriously concerned. Using such drugs for pleasure is harmful and dangerous to public health,” he said.
David Sumo said the Authority is mandated by law to ensure that, at all times, Liberia has safe, effective and good quality medicines for the people of Liberia.
Mr. Sumo said the Authority also has the responsibility to protect the population against substandard and counterfeit medicines and fair trade practices in the pharmaceutical sector. He also cautioned people against cheating the Liberian people at the detriment of their health.
Menmon P. Z. Dunah, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Pharmaceutical Board, said they remain unbending in confiscating expired, damaged and counterfeit drugs for the health of the people.