By Tina S. Mehnpaine
The Liberia Medicines and Health products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) has commenced a five day campaign against street selling of medicines and usage of expired health products.
The initiative, supported by Global Fund, is expected to benefit densely populated communities including Red-light, West Point, among others, with Duala market being the starting point of the awareness.
The campaign is a strategy designed by LMHRA to discourage people from buying medicines that are stored in buckets, plastic bags and market tables.
Also, the initiative will provide information on how medicines and other health products are bought in the country.
According to LMHRA officials, all health products and medicines that are coming in the country by land through borders are considered illegal and will be seized and burned.
LMHRA’s Managing Director, Keturah C. Smith, said in time past, they have had difficulty getting rid of street vendors because the community was never included, so this time around they have decided to reach out to the community.
“If people are aware of the harm these drugs posed on them, they will stop buying from the people selling on the street.”
She said people are suffering from one sickness to another because of the medicines they selling from the plastic bags, rubber buckets and the market tables.
“Medications that are kept in heat or sunlight have lost their ability to cure any illness,” she said, adding that other health products such as Scorpion Rub, Tripple Action and Kung-Fu Rub, among others, are secretly brought into the country from Guinea without being tested at the LMHRA’s laboratory.
“They put the medicines in bags, tie them up, place them in a car or truck. Imagine the heat the drugs are being placed under; as a result they lose their potency.”
The LMHRA Managing Director also noted that most of these medications in the street are expired, but vendors are in the habit of erasing the expiration date.
“Recently, we learned that the Lonart anti-malaria tablet was sold for L$150 by street vendors, which is not the actual price for that medication. The real price is L$400 but, because it was expired, it was sold for a cheaper price.”
Mrs. Smith warned pharmacies and drug stores to stop erasing the expiration dates on drugs and that violators caught will see their businesses shut down.
According to her, there is no law or penalty for people selling medicines in the street. However, she said, once street sellers of medicines are caught their goods will be taken away.
Serving as chief launcher, Nimba County District #3 Representative Joseph N. Somwarbi, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, called on citizens to desist from buying drugs in the street.
According to him, if people are in the consent habit of getting drugs from market tables or plastic bags, Liberia would have a society full of unhealthy people. “When you take in these tablets, the result will be temporary, at the end result, you will start experience the same sickness. My people, let us stop buying from those boys or girls selling drugs in the street,” he said.
He also assured LMHRA that he will lobby with his colleagues to provide all necessary support.
Korto Wesseh, a community dweller in Duala, said nobody has ever told her that medicines are coming from Guinea. “However, from today’s awareness, I will stop buying medicines from street. We have been kept in darkness, we have been destroying our own system by taking in these expired drugs.”
Madam Wesseh said she will also join LMHRA to carry out awareness in her Community and called on the Authority to regularly check the warehouses of those pharmacies because they are the ones giving the street vendors expired products to sell.