The Speaker of the House of Representatives has decried the high level of fake medicines importation within the sub-region, saying it is unacceptable and intolerable.
Speaker Emmanuel James Nuquay said the Economic Community of West Africa States or ECOWAS is convening its joint committees on health and social services/ trade, customs and free movement in Monrovia to discuss policy on combating counterfeit medical prod ucts and expired products at the time when the health needs of the people have taken center stage in almost all of the national discourses.
Speaking on Monday, April 10, in Monrovia during the opening of the regional conference, Speaker Nuquay pointed out that Nigeria accounts for about 60 percent of the value of illicit medicines in the sub-region followed by Guinea, 60 percent; Ivory Coast, 30 percent; Sierra Leone, 30 percent, and Liberia, 15 percent, respectively.
However, Liberian health authorities are suggesting that the number may increase to as high as 60 percent, if nothing were done to curb the proliferation of counterfeit drugs across countries of the sub-region.
According to the Liberian speaker, at least 250 deaths and 340 cases of chronic illnesses occur each year as a result of counterfeit medicines and illegal drugs in West Africa.
He noted that unscrupulous individuals and businesses take advantage of porous borders, security fragility and weakness of regulatory mechanisms to bring into the countries counterfeit medicines and expired products.
“This kind of behavior is unacceptable and intolerable. The free movement of persons across our borders should not be used as an avenue for engaging in criminal and unwholesome practices,” Nuquay frowned.
He stressed that the ECOWAS Parliament carves common legislations that would criminalize manufacturing, transportation, importation and sale of counterfeit and expired medicines in members’ countries.
“Part of our role is to also strengthen the capacities of our relevant committees that have oversight on this subject matter and ensure that cooperation and collaboration is increased among the agencies of our respective governments responsible for the implementation of the envisioned ECOWAS Policy.”
Nuquay called on member countries to send a clear and strong message that ECOWAS does not condone these kinds of unwholesome practices by naming and shaming those who take unrestrained pleasure in bringing illegal medical products to countries, their collaborators and government officials, who negate or renege on their duties and responsibilities in ensuring full compliance with the relevant laws and policies on counterfeit medicines and expired products.
Also speaking at the ceremony, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker MoustaphaCisse Lo said, the matter is a global phenomenon that has to be attacked at the source by deploying important financial and human means and establishing adequate legal arsenal in order to sanction all those involved in the manufacturing process, importation and sale of counterfeit medicines. Speaker Lo said it appears that millions of dollars are engulfed in the market for these counterfeit products around the world.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne