At the just-ended ECOWAS parliamentary conference on health and social services, trade, customs and free movement to discuss policy on combating counterfeit and expired medical products, the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) yesterday announced a major crackdown on anyone selling expired and counterfeit drugs in the country.
LMHRA Executive Director David Sumo said there are many people using the border points to import expired, counterfeit and other drugs of low content, which are usually found in buckets and other unregistered medicine outlets and pharmacies.
“We plan to expose those involved in these acts and to also ensure that those products are seized because they do not have the capacity to heal anyone,” he said.
Mr. Sumo, who spoke to journalists at his Old Road office, added that most of the counterfeit and expired drugs are transported overnight by trucks and other small vehicles from neighboring countries, including Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
This poses a serious challenge for the LMHRA in its regulating responsibility, he said. Since the establishment of the LMHRA, Director Sumo has been combating counterfeit drugs on the Liberian market.
He disclosed that the LMHRA is working with authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Superintendents and other security officers in the various counties and at border points to ensure that the situation is put under control.
“They cross illegally and bring in some of the drugs that are not allowed on our markets or may be questionable in their quality. We have to beef up our surveillance to make sure that we have honest people at the various border points,” said Mr. Sumo.
He explained that LMHRA is working with importers of drugs to make sure that their products meet regulatory requirements, including prolonged effectiveness.
“If you go to the markets, including Red Light, Waterside, Duala and Rally Time, the drugs sellers are all around selling these drugs without licenses. There are many carrying drugs in buckets and treating people with some counterfeit and expired medicines,” Mr. Sumo warned.
He further disclosed that the LMHRA is working in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), to ensure that these illegal importers are arrested and proper border security are put in place.
“We have confronted the security on several occasions about the illegal practices which are putting peoples’ lives at risk. We have to continue to do something about it to ensure that Liberia effectively stops such bad practice,” said Mr. Sumo.
According to him, the selling of drugs on the street and in market places has been banned in many countries, including those in East Africa that have developed and are enforcing rules and regulations to ensure that expired and counterfeit drugs are off the market.
“We are in a modern era and should not be selling drugs to people in buckets. Such practices should be curtailed and contained in Liberia. This will stop them from risking our lives, especially when people are trying to seek treatment. We have to nail it for good, no matter who gets affected in the process,” he declared.