Lack of Medical Regulatory Body Sparks Health Risk Fear in Liberia

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Monrovia – Concern is brewing in the public over the delay in constituting the board to administer the affairs of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA).

The concerns are growing following the recent arrest of some expired products on the Liberian market.

If constituted by President George Manneh Weah, the LMHRA Board will be under a mandate to recommend a managing director to the President.

But Henry Wolokollie, President of the Liberia Consumer Protection Association, told FrontPage Africa Monday that the delay in the appointment of a managing director has made the authority ineffective to examine pharmaceuticals coming into the country.

The entity is currently being supervised by its Human Resource Officer, Joseph Redd, who is reportedly not an expert in the medical and pharmaceutical sector.

“If the Human Resource Officer who is not a medical practitioner or having any idea on medicines is heading the Liberia Medicines and Health Regulatory without structure Board, then it poses a serious threat to the sale of pharmaceuticals in Liberia.

How will the HR go about to ensure that his inspectors are doing the right thing,” Wolokollie said.

Part IV, Section one of the act establishing the LMHRA states that it is an autonomous authority but is accountable to the President of the Republic of Liberia and shall submit an annual report to the Legislature.

In Section 4, Chapter 2, a., the act also states that the Board of Directors shall consist, specified members, at least three (3) of whom shall be women and that a qualified Liberian Pharmacist, shall be appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia to chair the Board of directors.

President Weah is yet to constitute a Board of Director at the LMHRA, which the consumer protection group asserts might put the health of consumers at risk.

According to Section 4, chapter 1, the Board of Directors shall have 11 voting members, to be appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia.

It is also spelled out in Chapter 2, F. that the Board of Directors shall have the powers and duties to approve the individuals recommended to be Managers by the Managing Director;

The act is clear that the Board of Director shall consist of the Chief Pharmacist, representing the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; the head of the Pharmacy Board, a lawyer representing the Ministry of Justice, the head of Customs, representing the Ministry of Finance, the head of the National Bureau of Standards, representing the Ministry of Commerce as well as a representative of the School of Pharmacy of the University of Liberia.

Others mentioned in the act are a representative of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council; a representative of the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia, a veterinarian, a representative of an appropriate consumer interest group or association and the Managing Director of the Authority, who shall serve as its secretary.

Wolokollie said the operation of the HR who is not a Pharmacist as head at the authority violates the act establishing the LMHRA.

The Act also states that the Managing Director shall be a qualified Liberian pharmacist and shall be the administrative and technical head of the authority who shall direct and administer the day-to-day activities of the Authority.

As a result of the delay in constituting board members, Wolokollie maintained that the authority has not been able to regulate and monitor the importation, distribution and retailing of pharmaceuticals on the Liberian market.

“The continuous and prolonged delay in the constitution of the Board and the appointment of its Managing Director is leading to a serious health issue and is putting the health of consumers at a serious risk,” Wolokollie added.

The LCPA president expressed fear that this delay is leading to an influx of sub-standard and counterfeit medicines on the Liberian market.

Madam Clavenda Bright Parker, former Board Director of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority, is also concern about the delay in constituting the authority’s board.

Madam Parker told FrontPage Africa Monday that the constitution of a board for the LMHRA is important to speed up some work at the entity, but recognized work being carried out by the current management team.

“I hope the government will be moved to constitute the board relative to the act. The authority never stops operating but I hope it never last long and hope that it be put together very soon for everything to go normal,” Madam Parker said.

“Even though I am a former and still extensive of the profession people were dying from sub-service drugs and the establishment of the authority has saved a lot of lives.”

Madam Parker expressed confidence that the appointment a managing director and the formation of a board will fast-track the completion of an unfinished laboratory project for the testing of pharmaceuticals coming into Liberia.

The lab, according to her, is used for inspectors at the LMHRA to examine and determine whether pharmaceuticals are expired or good for consumption purposes.

She stated that the lab was burnt during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration and need to be reconstructed.

When contacted Monday, the Human Resource Officer Joseph Redd who is currently administering the day-to-day activities of the LMHRA, said he was not clothed with the authority to speak on the matter.

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