By Awa B. Bah
The new Minister of Health Dr. Ahmad Lamin Samateh, on Tuesday June 11th 2019 appeared before deputies at the National Assembly to answer to questions for which due notice was given.
Among the issues raised by NAMs was the lack of enforcement mechanisms which should be put in place to stop the sale of medicinal drugs by uncertified personnel in public places such as markets, ferry terminals, and on the streets.
The Minister in his response to the questions said the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), has an enforcement mechanism in place which is carried out by the Inspectorate Unit of the Agency; that the Unit is responsible for the enforcement of illegally manufactured drugs, its importation or exportation, storage, sale and related activities nationwide.
Dr. Samateh said Inspectorate Unit has inspectors in all the regions of the country, who will conduct routine and follow-up investigations and inspections at all pharmaceutical premises; that some of the inspections and raiding activities and enforcement conducted, include market premises, in streets and weekly market grounds or ‘Lumos’ and ferry crossing points nationwide; that the Banjul ferry terminal was raided by the MCA Inspectors in November 2017 and five peddlers were arrested and their drugs confiscated by the Police. He said another raiding was conducted at the Banjul Albert market by the Inspectors and the Police in February 2018 which led to the discovery of an illegal pharmaceutical warehouse; that the culprit was since arrested by the Police.
Dr. Samateh said the Brikama market was also raided in November 2017, when eight people were arrested, their medicines confiscated and the culprits arrested by the police. He further disclosed that the Brikama car park was also inspected in November 2027 leading to the discovery of illegal pharmaceutical store; that all medicines were seized and confiscated from this store; that in the KMC, the Westfield junction was raided in July 2018 by MCA Inspectors in collaboration with the Serrekunda Police which led to the arrest of eight drug peddlers by the Police; that the Latrikunda market was inspected in July 2018, leading to the arrest of one person and his medicines confiscated.
Dr. Samateh said the Bambatenda/Yelitenda ferry crossing and Farafenni in the North Bank region, were raided several times by MCA Inspectors in collaboration with the Police in March and October 2018; that the Wassu weekly market (Lumo) in the Central River Region was inspected in March 2018 where three people were arrested and their medicines confiscated; that Sare Bojo ‘Lumo’ in the Upper River Region was as well raided in March 2018, leading to the arrest of six people and their medicines confiscated.
These activities by MCA Inspectors Dr. Samateh said, should be conducted more frequently for it to be effective; but that due to inadequate human capacity and financial resources, it is conducted on a quarterly basis; that there are plans to gradually increase the human resource and cooperation with the security institutions for additional support.