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Innovarx’s imported medicines stranded at airport

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Medicines Control Agency has rejected Innovarx Global Health’s request for import permit, leading tonnes of medicines being stranded at the Banjul airport.

In a statement shared with The Standard, Innovarx said it had notified the MCA of the arrival of their January shipment of US-sourced, FDA-approved prescription medication at the Banjul International Airport.

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Following a month of delay, the company said it wrote to the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President highlighting the severe consequences of the delay in releasing their consignment held at the customs for 30 days, and the financial burden imposed by the new regulations. It also warned that if the matter is not resolved promptly, they may be forced to close operations in The Gambia as early as May.

Also, on 8 May, according to the company, Dr Ismail Badjie, the head of the company, met the Minister of Health to discuss the urgency of releasing the medications held at the airport and highlighted the imminent risk of patient treatment plans being interrupted if the situation is not resolved promptly.

But in a statement dated 10 May seen by The Standard responding to Innovarx request, the MCA stated: “We wish to inform you that after vetting your import clearance permit application submitted, it was found out that all your medicinal products are neither registered nor listed as required by law. Please note that MCA cannot grant approval to your application until legal requirements are fulfilled. MCA counts on your cooperation and compliance.”

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Reacting to the rejection in a writeup shared with The Standard, Innovarx founder and CEO, Dr Ismaila Badjie said:

“We have employed all collaborative and diplomatic approaches to resolve the issue while placing the continuity of care of our patients’ medication therapy and compliance with the regulator’s protocols at the forefront of our efforts. Yet despite our best efforts, we are currently facing a significant regulatory challenge, which has led to a delay in the release of our medical supplies. Our inventory levels are running critically low, and that’s why I am reaching out to you in advance to let you know that regrettably we find ourselves challenged to fulfill the service you have come to expect from us.”

He continued: “Our shipment of vital medications was brought in by our company CFO on Monday, 8 April, but they are still being held at the Banjul International Airport customs office awaiting MCA’s approval and issuance of an import permit. Physical unpacking and inspection of the entire inventory by MCA was completed on 15 April. We understand the gravity of this situation and the potential impact it may have on your health and well-being.”

CEO Badjie accused the Medicines Control Agency of intending to weaponize the law and amendment to kill his business.

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