Pharmacist says gov’t’s medicine testing policy illogical

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By Omar Bah

The founder and CEO of Innovarx Global Health has informed the National Assembly that the new policy introduced by the Ministry of Health compelling importers of medicine to test their products is “illogical and counterproductive”.

The Assembly health committee is currently engaging stakeholders on their investigation into the causes of the Acute Kidney Injury, AKI, that has taken the lives of 70 children. Last week, it was the turn of the medicine importers and pharmacy owners. Addressing the meeting, Dr Ismaila Badjie, a licensed pharmacist with over ten years experience in the United States dealing with procurement, said the idea of testing medicines is outdated and draconian.

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“There is no place in a structured society where you are required to test every single product that comes into the country. Doing it is actually causing harm to the Gambian people because the rate that we are going there will be a drug shortage in the very near future,” Dr Badjie informed the NAMs.

He said the death of the 70 children is unfortunate and should have never happened in any country but with this new testing policy, more Gambians would die because essential medication will be not be immediately available.

“Now as stakeholders, I think all of us have a responsibility to vet where we buy medications from; so in terms of consequences, we will expect our regulators to hold us accountable where we buy our medications from because every importer made a decision on where you want to buy your medication – some of us pay more while some of us pay less,” he told the NAMs.

Badjie added that India produces 50% of the medication sold in the United States and almost half of the medications he dispensed as  a pharmacist in the US were made in India.

“So, the idea of a local importer in Africa having to even provide certificate of analysis and register a product is an outdated concept in the pharmacy supply chain and is one of the reasons why Africa as a continent is struggling with counterfeit problem because the people who are quality distributors of medication consider our regulations too draconian so they rather take their business elsewhere,”  Badjie said.

Dr Badjie said there should be a conversation between stakeholders on how to address the issue at hand.

“But the idea of testing should not be encouraged as a standard because it will take the profession back and not forward. Now, when it comes to random testing, that is something we can consider,” he added.

He said where an institution is established, government authorities could randomly select samples from any pharmacies and at any point anyone is found wanting of providing substandard products to the market, they could be held accountable “because as stakeholders we would not want such person among ourselves.

“But the $1000 required for testing every product is something that should not even be considered because the other reality is that we live in a very porous country, meaning individuals who are not in this room who are selling medication to Gambians could smuggle medicine into the country and they will dominate the market,” Badjie told the parliamentary committee on health.

He further noted that Gambia as a country should also start demanding that manufacturers don’t sell to “us products that are not good enough to be sold to Western nations and that should go with food”.

“We should also question the level of manufacturers who have access to our market. I have personally studied them closely to know that there are three tiers to the Indian market – the top tier that supplies USA and Europe, middle tier that they consume internally and the bottom tier that they could always produce a certificate for,” he said.