By Kebba Ansu Manneh
The West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) has cautioned the Gambia’s Ministry of Health on its new medicines testing protocols, saying the testing fee is expensive and not sustainable for pharmacies operating in the country.
This statement among others was contained in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Health and stakeholders in the health sector on Monday, 28th November 2022, where they say the idea of testing each batch of drugs could create fraught and unintended consequences on the lives and, livelihoods of Gambians.
The statement also follows the visit of a high-powered delegation of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists into the country last week engaging various stakeholders of the health sector in a bit to diffuse the looming drug shortage that is facing the country after the AKI saga.
“The team wishes to caution on the idea of testing each batch of drugs coming into the country. It is fraught and has unintended consequences. Ghana, for instance, conducts tests on every batch for only once on vaccines and condoms,” WAPCP disclosed in its statement signed by Professor Mahama Duwiejua and Professor Noel Wannang.
It added: “Except where there are cases to monitor a particular company, once a product is registered subsequent batches are allowed into the market.”
The Association has also cautioned the Ministry of Health of The Gambia to look into the high cost of testing charges that it says is unaffordable to the pharmacy operators. And that paying richer countries a hefty amount of foreign exchange to test drugs will not only have implications for the pharmacy operator but equally for the economy of the Gambia.
“The team also sees the charges of testing of $1000 to $1,400, as a huge drain of foreign exchange from the economy to better endowed countries. Besides, it is important to note that, medicines kept under quarantine at the port could be exposed to harsh and adverse weather or environment that will affect the quality of the product and end up creating another monster,” WAPCP further disclosed in its letter to the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders.
It added: “We associate with the sentiments of the importers of Pharmaceuticals about the increased risk of fake and substandard drugs coming through unapproved routes. If this policy is maintained the danger of importers being out of business is real.”
West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) also called on the government of the Gambia to urgently establish a pharmaco vigilance (PV) unit within the Medicines Control Agency (MCA). While noting that underreporting of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) is not unusual but constant reminders and encouragement from MOH and MCA to both private and public sectors including the general public may improve the situation.
The West African Pharmaceutical body also called on the government of the Gambia to urgently establish a function of drug testing under the MCA in line with international best practice, hinting that creating a parallel or an autonomous body at this time may create a conflict of interest and derail efforts already taken.