By Binta Jaiteh
Dr. Ahmed Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, has called for an urgent need for a functional National Medicines Quality Control Laboratory (NMQC Lab).
He made the calls to the National Assembly select committee on Health, Disaster, and Humanitarian Relief which is still investigating Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) that resulted in the death killed Gambian children
Responding to the committee on Tuesday, he said Select Committee is reliably informed by the Ministry of Health that the World Bank is funding the construction of one modern QC Lab, and the Select Committee, has recommended the government through the Ministry of Health to intensify efforts to complete this task as quickly as possible bearing that it is a requirement under section 50 of the Medicines and Related Product Act 2014.He pointed out that the committee further recommended that the laboratory should be established under the control of MCA as international best practice.
According to him, parallel/autonomous authority created now will generate conflicts of command with different priorities, and samples from MCA will be handled at the convenience of the lab authority which may result in delays.“An independent national laboratory can be built in the future to support MCA with more advanced or confirmatory tests. We responded that MCA is working with MOH to get the QC lab established through the support of the World Bank. We already have a firm doing the drawings and a firm for construction is being sought and this lab will also include a food quality control component as well,” Dr. Samateh explained.
He disclosed that the land is already available and construction work will start soon, noting the Government prioritizes the need for an urgent establishment of a functional Pharmacovigilance (P) unit at the MCA and hereby recommend its immediate establishment in January 2023.
“Under-reporting of Adverse Drugs Reactions is not unusual but constant reminders and encouragement from the MoH and the MCA to both private and public sectors including public may improve the situation,” he said.
Minister Samateh added that there is a PV system in place under the MCA but it needs to be strengthened and they have requested Technical Assistance from WHO to support the PV system, adding MCA, secured funding for the training of only 25 healthcare workers which is due at the end of March 2023.
He further said the surviving children are currently being followed up and they are receiving free medical care.
“Government is reviewing the reports and waiting for the pending report of the inquiry set up by the government. Once these reports are all reviewed, the issue of compensation will be addressed. That, as a matter of utmost urgency,
The Ministry of Health must consider revisiting the Medicines and Related Products Act to give clear and direct powers to the MCA to regulate and impose sanctions on the sector without having to seek the approval of the Minister of Health. This is to prevent interference and ineffectiveness of the Agency and its decisions,” he said
He noted the MCA currently has those powers and does not need to consult the minister for the process of reviewing the acts as the ministry has secured a law firm that is looking at the different laws.