By Kebba Ansu Manneh
Impeccable sources close to the Ministry of Health have informed this medium that Gambia will be paying over two million dollars ($ 2 million) per annum to Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) for using its laboratory testing of medicines imported into The Gambia.
He revealed that this new drug testing charges protocol will witness the Gambia government paying over $ 2 million to Ghana’s food laboratory, while private pharmacies operating in the country could be paying up to $200,000 per annum for testing of their product.
According to him, Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority has set the pricing of testing samples of drugs for $1000 and samples of syrups to $1,400, adding that this pricing scheme from FDA is unsustainable for both government, private pharmacies, and medicine importers and should not be entertained by health authorities in the Gambia.
He further revealed that The Gambia is currently facing a health crisis since July of this year when fake and substandard drugs imported from India claims the lives of more than seventy (70) Gambia children who were infested with Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), observing that this new drug testing regulation will further complicate matters as it may lead to drug shortages in the country.
“I think both the Ministry of Health and the Minister need serious advice, outsourcing of quality control testing is very expensive and not sustainable by both private and public sectors. Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) laboratory is charging $1000 per every drug sample and $1,400 per every sample of syrup, neither the government nor the private sector can afford this high cost of drug testing charges,” our insider at the Ministry of Health disclosed.
He added: “MCA did submit challenges on the testing of this new drug in Ghana in a write-up that was sent to the Health Minister, Office of the President (OP) and National Assembly (NA) select committee on Health highlighting all the implications and challenges. Testing drugs outside is a big challenge for the country and to me, it all squarely down to the Government’s failure to establish a quality control testing laboratory.”
In the same development, the National Assembly Select Committee on Health has also held meetings with officials of the Pharmaceutical Association of the Gambia (PAG) and the Association of medicine importers who also highlighted challenges associated with the testing of all drugs coming into the country.
Mahawa Njie, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Pharmaceutical Association of the Gambia (PAG) told the House Select Committee that none of the importers of pharmaceutical products can cope with the new drug testing conditions.
He stated that most of the importers are not directly making orders from manufacturing companies but rather buying from a wholesaler in the UK, Europe, and America and could not fulfill the government’s condition of producing a certificate of analysis for the products coming into the country.
He argued that the Ministry of Health has defied its own rules by coming up with mandatory testing of all drugs imported into the country, revealing that this wasn’t the case for drugs from the UK, Europe, and, America where the distribution of drugs are governed by governing bodies that ensure that any drugs up for sale are quality assured, tested and certified.
For her part, Laila Khadra Traboulsi, a Gambian Pharmacologist and Proprietor of Malak Pharmaceuticals disclosed that the new testing protocol is designed to punish all importers of drugs and medicines into the country without addressing the root causes of the problem.
She pointed out that Malak Pharmaceuticals for 28 years have never compromised with the quality of drugs and medications it is bringing into the country.
“For 28 years we have been bringing quality medications into the country and never experienced any problem that makes an alarm in the country. Someone, somewhere has caused the problem and we are all paying the price for this by subjecting all our imported medications and testing,” Malak Pharmaceuticals Proprietor Laila Khadra Traboulsi noted.
She added: “Our medicines are rigorously tested, and quality controlled and if there is anything wrong we have an email from our suppliers to inform us that this particular product has impurity standard changes, please recall the product. To us, there is no need to test something that has been rigorously tested in the originating country, and what we think MCA should be doing is to see a proper MHRA certificate plus wholesalers and distributors certificate.”
She disclosed that Malak Pharmaceuticals have been billed to pay for the testing of eleven samples of medicines that MCA is charging for $15, 000 even though all their products are currently on sale in UK and European pharmacies, adding that none of the importers can afford to pay this high cost of charges if they are to stay in business which will, in turn, cause adverse effects on the lives and livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable people of the Gambia.
“None of us are going to stay open unless the (Ministry of Health) thinks that we are dealing in narcotics or cocaine. I don’t know what they presume we are selling but only someone dealing with that and as far as I am concerned no pharmacy operator is dealing in those types of products,” Laila Khadra Traboulsi noted.
She called on the National Assembly Select Committee on Health to intervene and draws the curtain on the new measures implored by the Ministry of Health if medicines are to be available in the country, revealing that a lot of pharmacies are running out of drugs due to this measures that put most drugs imported into the country under quarantine.