‘Counterfeit drugs could be in Gambian market’

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Essa Marenah, the principal regulatory officer of the Medical Control Agency (MCA), has confirmed that 75% of medicines and other related products that are circulating in the market are not registered with the MCA, warning that there could be fake medicines in our market.

“Medicines that are not registered with the agency could be counterfeit medicine. Nobody can dispute that. In fact, that is why we are emphasising on the need for people to register their products,” he told our reporter.

The Medical Control Agency is the regulatory body mandated to regulate all matters relating to efficacy, quality and safety of medicines and related products in the country.

Recently, our reporter visited Stop Step Westfield Pharmacy, Banjul Pharmacy, Kairaba Pharmacy and City pharmacy all within the Kanifing Municipality with a view to finding out whether the products they are bringing meet the requirements of MCA.

Mr. Marenah said the importance of registration is to enable the agency look at the quality, safety and efficacy of the products, adding that medicines that are not registered pose threat to our health.

“Most of the products that are sold in the pharmacies are not registered. Notwithstanding, if you want to apply the law on the dealers, it’s like no one will bring a product in The Gambia. So long the products are not registered; the agency can’t tell you anything about the products.”

MCA, he said, can only speak for the products that are registered with the agency. “We’re trying to push all these importers to ensure that they register. But let me tell you that you try to push these importers; they are reporting you to ministers, senior government officials among others.”

He said: “The products that are in the market and are registered with the agency are less than 1%. So if you are talking about the law, then even the product that the government is bringing for public hospitals and private sector will stop coming. If you want to apply the law; meaning that there will be no medicine in The Gambian market,” he said.

Marenah added: “At the moment, we don’t do any testing. What we’re doing is that people that are bringing products in The Gambia must be registered in the country of manufacture and certificate of analysis from that country that was submitted to the regulatory of that particular country.”

Anis Chouman, the managing director of Kairaba Pharmacy admitted that two to three of their products that they are selling don’t contain some of the details particularly the manufacturer’s details.

“Yes it is part of the requirements of MCA that any product coming in the country should contain the manufacturer’s details. Maybe it is an oversight from us. However, it doesn’t mean that it is a counterfeit medicine or bad products,” he said.

“The MCA alerted us on this, and I can tell you that we’re making some improvement on that. All the new consignment that we order, we will make sure that it contains all the details per the requirement of MCA.”

He added: “It is an oversight and we’re adapting to the new one. Besides, each product that we import into the country comes with certificate of analysis. We order our medicines from different companies and I can tell you that the medicines that we order are fit for consumption even in the country of origin.”

 “All medicines and other products coming in the country whether imported by the government or the private sector should first be registered with the MCA and they should have the market authorisation certificate,” a health expert told our reporter on the condition of anonymity.

“If a medicine is registered by the MCA and doesn’t have the manufacturer’s details, it should not be allowed to be in the market because consumers buying the medicine need to know the manufacturers of the medicines.”

The most unfortunate part, he went on, is that there is no functioning quality control lab in the country, adding that it’s one of the critical issues the country is grappling with.

“So if this product is not registered, they should not be in the market. Preferably, any products brought in the country should be accompanied with batch certificate so that the consumers can confirm whether the company is a legal entity or not.”  

Author: Momodou Jawo