By: Momodou Justice Darboe
The acting Director of the Medicines Control Agency(MCA), Essa Marenah, has insisted that the MCA has to fully implement the law, regarding the importation of medicinal products into The Gambia.
Large quantities of imported pharmaceutical products are currently stuck at the country’s ports of entry and according to the PRO of the Gambia Pharmaceutical Association Mr. Mahawa Njie, the situation could degenerate into a scarcity of medicines in the country.
However, according to Mr. Marenah, import clearance is needed from the MCA for any medicinal product to be allowed in.
“Import clearance is needed from the MCA. If you don’t fulfill our requirement, we won’t give you a permit and that will mean you will not also fulfill customs requirements. And if you don’t fulfill customs requirements, your products will not be released,” the acting MCA director explained when contacted by The Voice to shed light on the stalemate between some medicine importers and the Gambian authorities over the quantities of medicines stuck at the airport.
“MCA was giving them import permits for medicines from Europe or these donations or so. So, I know the changes at MCA only happened after this AKI report. The government, we all know, accepted the AKI report. The Ministry of Health also wrote to MCA management and board to fully implement the AKI report. We are a government agency. They established MCA, which means, they made the laws. So, if we say we are not following the law like being in possession of medicines not registered. We have to go by the law and the law says all products must be registered before you can allow their importation. So, we have to make sure your products are registered before we can give an import permit,” the MCA acting director told this medium. He added: “So I think customs too, if you don’t have the import permit from MCA, they will not release your products. That is the situation but any product that registers, followed the law…If they are issued a permit and meet other requirements, I don’t think they will be withheld. As far as I know, this is the situation. We are implementing what we are asked to do. We all know about it. Even last year, they were all written to say by the end of 2022, no product will be allowed into the country that is not registered. They all were communicated to. They are out to try chance but we want to tell them we mean business. Unless the law is changed, we cannot do much. That’s the law. So, that is the situation. We advise people not to bring products that are not registered. This law is not only in The Gambia but try shipment in Senegal, Ghana… It’s the same thing. I think people have to follow the law. You cannot try to disregard the law”.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Voice, Mahawa Njiepointed out that medicines importers in The Gambia will find it impossible to get their products registered as they do not meet the threshold for registration. Unlike Nigeria and other countries with huge populations, the Gambia could not provide a customer base that would convince manufacturers to allow Gambian importers of pharmaceuticals to have their imports registered, he clarified.
He pointed out that they were only informed about the registration sometime after the unveiling of the AKI report.