Liberia: Clinics in Liberia Administering and Dispensing Fake, Banned Drugs to Patients


Monrovia – In Liberia, hundreds of thousands of patients leave the clinics hoping that their medical issues have been cured, but they unknowingly return to their homes with drugs that cause more damage to their health.

Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]

The Liberia Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) has confiscated from various clinics and pharmacies several consignments of expired, fake and banned drugs they have been administering and dispensing to patients.

Goodwill Clinic in Fiamah, a suburb of Monrovia, according to the LMHRA, was deeply involved with the use of such drugs, and several were seized from there.

The Managing Director of LMHRA, David Sumo, told reporters that it’s alarming how some clinics in the country were contributing to the abuse of Tramadol which has become new dope for many young people in the country and the sub-region.

“Recently we visited a clinic where they are using expired drugs – you can imagine a clinic knowing and intentionally administering or dispensing expired drugs to patients,” Sumo said, describing the practice as unacceptable.

Sumo didn’t hesitate to name and shame clinics involved in such practice. The Goodwill Clinic in Fiamah, according to him, harbored several drugs – some expired, some fake, banned while others were drugs intended to be used in government facilities only.

Goodwill Clinic, according to the LMHRA, was in possession of drugs like Anagin and Baralgin which were banned by the World Health Organization (WHO) 10 years ago.

“It used to be used for pain and fever, but was later scientifically noticed that it can also destroy the human immune system. It makes your body weak and allows your body to be exposed to opportunistic diseases, then the body becomes weaker and unable to fight. These drugs are no longer used in many parts of the world, but these people are still using it in this country illegally and using it on our people,” Sumo lamented.

Goodwill is not only involved in the use of expired and banned drugs, but drugs intended for use only in government facilities were also confiscated from its Fiamah branch.

Such drugs, which are not meant to be sold, according to Sumo, were obtained by Goodwill either from the government’s supply system, the clinics or from government warehouses.

“We asked them for invoices to see if the drugs were legitimately acquired, but surprisingly, they couldn’t produce any – that means, they got them illegally,” he said.

He said the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital was also in possession of similar drugs that were illegally sold to them.

“I want to call on all medical facilities to go to the proper sources and make sure you’re given invoices and don’t buy anything that has questionable quality,” he advised.

Counterfeited chemicals used as reagents in laboratories were also discovered in some clinics.

“If the chemicals and reagents are substandard, the results that would come out of the lab would be doubtful. Those results will not even give the doctor the proper information, so the doctor will end up giving the wrong prescription to the patients because the chemical that was used to analyze the sample in the lab was falsified,” he said.

The LMHRA has vowed a clamp down on individuals selling drugs in buckets along the streets, noting that they would work in collaboration with the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Pharmacy Division, Liberia National Police and all partners to ensure that the market is eradicated of sub standard drugs.

Clamping Down on Illegal Drugs on the Market

This is probably the first time that authorities at the LMHRA have taken their patrol to health facilities that administer drugs to their patients.

However, this is not the first time they have clamped down on illegal medicinal drugs in the country.

Back in September 2014, when Ebola was ravaging the sub-region, some importers of drugs hid under the canopy of helping the nation in its fight against the deadly disease to bring into the country bad medicinal products.

One of such institutions was the Indian-run and own Abeer Pharmaceuticals on Randall Street in Monrovia. The LMHRA said they had been selling “fake medicines” on the Liberian market.      

Abeer sells both retail and wholesale; and it is one of those very cheap pharmacies in Monrovia. Its retail room is flooded throughout the day with people buying different kinds of drugs. Most of the drugs bought, are not prescribed by a doctor.

Some of the faked drugs that LMHRA displayed to journalists that they had allegedly seized from the warehouse of Abeer back in 2014 included Diclof-100mg, Diclof-50mg and Aquaten-100mg. The other products were Amoxitor-125mg and Ampitor-125mg.

The LMHRA showed at least 12 cartoons of faked medicines that it said were confiscated from the Indian-own pharmacy. Two of the cartoons were dampened and Mr. Sumo said they had been in Abeer’s warehouse for over a year.

A bottle of the Amoxitor-125mg, which had its expiry date to be 2016, was opened and the odor from the yellowish power that came from the bottle nearly threw everyone from the room.

Open Sale of Drugs on the Streets

The open sale of drugs both traditional and pharmaceutical by unregistered outlets is a major concern in Liberia.

A constant shortage of medicines in government hospitals and clinics has stimulated the growth of informal drug markets all over the country.

Meanwhile, the sale of traditional medicine, which often comes in the form of unprocessed roots, leaves and other products, is completely unregulated.

It is not hard to find one of these unregistered or unlicensed sellers all around Monrovia especially in the suburbs of the city. Nearly all of these sellers are not medical practitioners or pharmacists.

They can be openly found in large markets with their stuffs in large transparent plastic buckets and openly calling on passersby to look their ways.