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Fake drugs swamp Nimba, Bong

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Latest findings of the Liberia Medicines & Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) reveal that fake drugs continue to flood the Liberian market, with Nimba and Bong Counties topping the list.

According to a release, the LMHRA is the agency of government mandated statutorily to ensure good quality, safe and efficacious medicines and health products for the enhancement of quality health services in the country.

Its Pharmaceutical Information Officer, Juwe D. Kercula, said in February 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), approved a request to issue a Fix Amount Award (FAA) to the Liberia Medicines & Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) through United States Pharmacopeia- Promoting the Quality of Medicines.

According to him, the purpose of this sub-award is to support the LMHRA conducts Monitoring Quality Medicines (MQM) activities leading to stronger Post Market Surveillance (PMS) programs that ensure the decentralization of medicines quality control activities throughout Liberia.

“Monitoring the Quality Medicines project took place in five counties – Montserrado, Bomi, Margibi, Bong, and Nimba. During this time, mystery shoppers bought samples of medicines from private sector (Pharmacies and medicines Stores) and samples were collected from public health facilities (County Drug Deports). These samples were taken to the LMHRA Quality Control Laboratory where they were analyzed using various analytic methods ranging from visual inspections to high technology analysis like High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)”, he detailed.

Mr. Kercula further said a total of 370 samples were collected for analysis with 62 percent Anti-malaria. The test result showed 46 percent of these samples failed Quality Control (QC) analysis. “The results from these analyses were shared with the local authorities including County Health Teams, Superintendents, Police, Drug Enforcement Agency, Marketing Association and Hospitals. The involvement of these stakeholders necessitated the enforcement of Regulatory Actions, by removing these failed products from our markets and ensure continuous surveillance of medicines quality in Liberia”.

The Pharmaceutical Information Officer told this paper that several unregistered and substandard anti-malarial drugs were discovered in Bong and Nimba counties during the enforcement of the Regulatory Actions, but said the importers of those drugs could not be traced.

“The LMHRA-MQM team could not trace the importer(s) of these substandard and unregistered drugs. Given this precarious situation the LMHRA-MQM team conducted live – phone-in radio talk shows to inform the public of these dangerous substandard medicines discovered in their counties, admonishing the public not to buy any of these medicines. Moreover, immediate Task force was formed in each county to rid these medicines from the market”, he narrated.

It is important to note that in Asia, new findings from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), confirm dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, the first-line treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection in Cambodia, has failed in certain provinces due to parasite resistance to artemisinin and piperaquine. 

It’s important to take note to avoid such occurrence in Liberia as Malaria is the number one killer disease here, according to the country’s Health Management Information System (HMIS).The assurance of safe, effective and good quality medicines on the Liberian market should form an integral part of a Resilient Health System as anything short of this could undermine the tremendous efforts of government and international counterparts.

-Edited by Jonathan Browne

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