OVER 100 PHARMACIES CLOSED….operators urge Ministry to intervene

By Lamin Cham

Since the beginning of the new year, more than one hundred pharmacies or drugstores across the country have been ordered to close and drugs removed from them allegedly on the orders of the Medicine Control Agency and the Pharmacy Council.
Scores of the aggrieved operators who spoke to The Standard questioned the rationale behind the decision describing it as an act of highhandedness that has caused heavy losses to the affected operators and rendering many jobless.

According to the affected persons, the closures were done by inspectors from the Medicine Control Agency whose role they claimed should have just stopped at checking the quality of drugs and not registration matters which they said should be the role of the Pharmacy Council.
“But since the same persons serve on both bodies, there is little surprise there is no visible separation of their roles,” one of the affected operators said.

They further stated that the reason given for the closures, non-proper registration, is irrational as any change in the regulation should have been adequately disseminated to the actors and a process started to get them regularized. They said that’s better than a hash and rushed approach that resulted in the loss of revenue for the affected operators.

Another source said the nature of the composition of the Pharmacy Council and the Medicine Control Agency smack of double standards. “The chairman of the Pharmacy Council for instance is a Principal inspector in The Medicine Control Agency which gives him unlimited powers and possible conflict of interest since some members of the regulatory bodies are license holders themselves who rented their licenses to mainly foreign importers.

“How can you regulate fairly between operators some of whom are using your own licenses,” one aggrieved operator queried.
He also alleged that since the closure of the drug stores, the regulatory bodies have introduced an additional license that now enables one to hold two retail and one wholesale licenses as opposed to the past when one can have a maximum of only two licenses.

“Are these new licenses authorized and by who?” one asked.
Meanwhile The Standard contacted a seasoned professional familiar with the issues who averred that the drastic decision to close drug stores across the country because of alleged non-proper registration may appear to be in order but it should be put in proper perspective.
“The first thing is that these groups of people were classified as Category C licenses which was linked to the Primary Health Care System that enabled remote communities far from health posts to access basic drugs like Paracetamol, Cough syrups etc. Though the license does not allow them to extend them to operate drug stores but the prompt order to close them has not only impacted on the revenue of the operators but the communities they are in will immediately feel their absence. So the lesson to learn is that every change should be managed and gradual instead of a radical approach,” he said.

According to our resource person, the next logical question that should be asked is whether an inventory has been done on the drugs seized from the closed drug stores and where they are kept.
“Are the high authorities at the Ministry of Health aware of the whereabouts of the drugs seized and how much are they and when are they expiring?” he asked.

An independent observer who spoke to The Standard advised the Ministry of Health and the new government to swiftly look into the importation, registration and regulation of drugs and pharmacies in the country to avoid another crisis in the health sector.

“The whole environment needs to be checked because where you have regulators of a sector being business operators themselves, there cannot be transparency. There is a general feeling that the whole business revolves around few powerful individuals who are either in the regulatory bodies or their favoured circle of friends, putting many genuine Gambians out of the business,” he observed.
Meanwhile The Standard for two days tried to get comments from both the Medicine Control Agency and the Pharmacy Council without success.

Essa Marena, the chairman of the Pharmacy Council when contacted said his office has a protocol to be followed before media interviews are granted. He refereed us to the Medicine Control Agency whose head Makiew Janneh initially accepted to talk to The Standard provided we call before coming.

The Standard made repeated calls and sent texts but she would not respond though a colleague of hers said she was willing and waited for our calls before going ahead to attend to other pressing matters such as an imminent international conference her office is involved in preparing.
The Standard will be happy to hear from both the Council and the Agency on this matter.

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5 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. They are corrupt council who only aimed to drag Gambian to poverty and enriched the foreigners that they rent their license to. They made the market conducive to this people by block capable Gambian to operate drug stores to help their fellow Gambian. This foreigners operate on the danger of poor Gambian by making lot of profits from the sells of drugs. As a Gambian when u demand for license they don’t give u ,even if u have qualification to have .all what they keep telling u is their is embark on linsence so how is the foreigners accessing lincense now?
    This is why we need to flush all this corrupt officials in our system so that we can build a positive nation for our future generation.

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  2. 100% of all pharmacy council members and all medicine control members are all licence holders and and have all their liscences rented to foreigners. The truth is that pharmacy council members and medicine control members wants to monnopolised the pharmacy business among the already “elites” in the business. This is why we can see exorbitant prices in some outlets cuz it’s monopolized. The closure of many qualified personels operating pharmacies or drugstores are making many of their communities feel the brunt. Pharmacy council is still reluctant to issue liscence to qualified personnels who already applied and yet they are embarked on mass closure of pharmacies and drugstores. These council members forgets that many communities depend on pharmacies or drugstore instead of going to hospital especially if the personel operating is trusted qualified medical personel who can diagnose and treat.. they forgot that hospitals and health centres can’t consume all health problems so drugstores operated by qualified personnels who can diagnose and treat are there to compliment. Parliament must step in to restrict medicine control agency from going beyond their responsibility to close pharmacies or drugstore. Paliament must step in to determine why there this irrational reluctance of pharmacy council to issue licenses to those qualified, and to remedy it as soon as possible. Parliament must step in to revisit regulations on licencing of pharmacies and drugstores for the interest of GENERAL GAMBIANS and not for the interest of any group or members of any body but for the interest of the GENERAL GAMBIANS.. GAMBIAN LAWS FOR THE GENERAL GAMBIANS and NOT for any FEW BODY or few COUNCIL MEMBERS and not for interest of any few PROTECTIONISTS at the disadvantage of general Gambians.

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  3. Standard news paper you must dig into these concerns of the commentators and those you already highlighted in your report. Standard news paper you are one of the media outlets earned our trust so you must endeavour by being our eyes, ears and mouth and get answers concern citizens are asking right now concerning this pharmacy and drugstore crisis . every law of the Gambia and every move of any government department must be for the interest of the Gambians and not for any protectionist party or body. This was not the promise of the NEW GAMBIA.

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  4. Well, as the saying goes, ”one does not give the fox responsibility to look after the hen house”. The industry needs to be governed with tighter regulations. While most of you are more concerned about foreigners holding licences, I am more concerned about flushing the Gambian market with counterfeits or contraband. Most of the ingredients used to manufacture these medical products are known to be harmful and could lead to long term health implications. Most of them are from developing countries such as, China, India etc., where the pharmaceutical industry is not strictly regulated. I know it is expensive to buy top brands, but then again, you do not want your health condition to deteriorate as a result of harmful products.

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  5. Infact taking care of counterfeit drugs should be the responsibility of MCA medicine control agency but they are not doing that itself instead going after licensing issues which should be the responsibility of pharmacy council.. the reason why MCA won’t do that is because all importers of drugs are using their liscences and so is the pharmacy council members too.. importers are using their liscences so they won’t dwell into that much or bring in tougher regulations allowing only genuine drugs into the country cuz there is possibility they will be affected negatively.. I’m in favour of parliament intervention to put a stop to unnecessary regulations aim at deterring qualified Gambians to own and operate pharmacies or drugstores to economically develop themselves and thus reducing poverty and unemployment which inturn boost the countries coffers.. pharmacy council and medicine control are apparently corrupt. They enact laws that see themselves to own 3 outlet with only one liscence and all are rented to almost foreigners and now deterring qualified fellow Gambians to own just one. This is corruption and new Gambia must never accept this.. that law itself must change -one liscence for one outlet period. You cannot operate three pharmacies with just one liscence and someone else cannot have one. This is unacceptable. I was made to understand that there are Gambian applicants who are qualified and their liscence application are there lying dormant gathering dust in the office of pharmacy council for almost a year and nothing done yet. This is unacceptable. Pharmacy council and MCA must know and realise willingly or unwillingly that their offices are public offices and belongs to Gambians and not their fathers homes or inheritance.. their offices must serve only general public interests and not their personal. Everyone wants developments.. I will advice all affected owners who are denied liscence for no good reason to demonstrate infront of parliament and infront of the president’s palace so that this ends and new laws come in allowing Gambians to own and operate pharmacies and drugstores..

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