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Special courts to deal with substandard medicine in the offing

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The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is collaborating with the Judicial Service to establish special courts to handle cases involving the sale of substandard and falsified (SF) medical products in the country.
This is part of measures to help promote the sale of quality medicines on the Ghanaian market.

The Head of Marketing and Surveillance of the FDA, Mr. Vigil Edward Prah-Ashun, made this known to journalists during a one-day stakeholders’ conference in Ho as part of a collaboration with the World Health Organisation to raise awareness of the dangers of SF medicines.

The discussions were based on what the FDA was doing to combat the sale and use of substandard medicines and their associated challenges, following a survey conducted on the menace in 2018.

The special courts were, therefore, to help expeditious trials in cases of such nature, since, according to Mr. Prah-Ashun, such cases took too long to prosecute in the various courts.

He noted that when the cases were dealt with on time and people who dealt in that illegal business were punished, it would serve as a deterrent to others.

“Very soon, these courts will be established to facilitate our work in the fight against the sale of SF medicines,” he said.

Various surveys

A survey conducted by the FDA, together with the Promoting Quality of Medicines (PQM) programme of the USP, in 2018 revealed a high prevalence of SF medicines, mostly antimalarials, analgesics, antibiotics, anthelmintics and uterotonics.

The survey, Mr. Prah-Ashun said, revealed that the incidence of SF antimalarials on the Ghanaian market had reduced from 39.6 per cent in 2009 to 1.4 per cent in 2018.

Similarly, that of Oxytocin had reduced from 58.1 per cent in 2015 to 49.4 per cent in 2018, while that of Ergometrine increased from 62.8 per cent in 2015 to 100 per cent in 2018, with uterotonics too being a major challenge.

He said a post-market surveillance conducted in 2020 on antibiotics, antimalarials and anti-retrovirals and HIV RDTs revealed a 100 per cent pass for anti-retrovirals sampled and tested, while there was a 37 per cent failure rate for HIV RDTs.

Again, he said, a nationwide survey conducted by the WHO on the behaviour of the Ghanaian public towards SF medicines as part of efforts to minimise the menace of those drugs in Ghana, which sampled 1,031 adults 18 years and above, revealed that most people were not aware of SF medical products on the market.

Those surveys, he noted, had necessitated the need for Ghanaians to be sensitised more to the issue because it could lead to death.

As part of measures to deal with the situation, he said, the FDA had intensified its pre- and post-market surveillance (PMS) activities on pharmaceutical products to ensure that registered products conformed to their marketing authorisation.

It was also to ensure that unregistered products were removed from the market, and only quality, safe and efficacious medicines were available to consumers to ensure public health and safety, he added.

Mr. Prah-Ashun called on the stakeholders to support the FDA to intensify public education and sensitisation efforts to change the situation in the country.

The Volta Regional Director of the FDA, Mr. Gorden Kwabena Akurugu, said there were many activities going on to check SF medicines, the reason officials at the borders should ensure that they did not allow people coming in with drugs.

Also, he noted, the authority had been organising training for over-the-counter medicine sellers to ensure that they bought from approved and registered facilities.

“We do what we call PMS in our markets to ensure that we don’t see people peddling drugs. Unfortunately, majority of the people who peddle drugs in our markets in the Volta Region are women. So we seize all illegal drugs and hand the peddlers over to the police for prosecution,” he added.

He advised people who wanted to sell drugs as their livelihood to take permits from the pharmaceutical council and get facilities for their business.

The campaign to sensitise the people, he said, would be intensified in the region for people to be cautious of the medicines they bought on the market, so that they did not fall victim to substandard ones.

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