Liberia: Health Risks Persist As President Weah Drags Feet to Constitute Medicinal Regulatory Board
Monrovia – It seems the lack of formulation of the board to administer the affairs of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) is seriously hampering the Authority to function adequately.
Report by Alaskai Moore Johnson. [email protected]
President George Manneh Weah has now gone a little over five months into his presidency and is yet to constitute this 11-member board that is intended to keep the feet of the Managing Director of the LMHRA to the fire in making sure that every or most of the medicinal products on the Liberian Market are safe for consumption by the public.
This board shall be headed by a qualified Liberian Pharmacist, appointed by the President and shall also include the Chief Pharmacist, representing the Ministry of Health; 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; a representative of the School of Pharmacy of the University of Liberia; 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 secretary to the Board of Directors.
While accusing fingers are being pointed at this President from some corners for being slackened in setting up this board, he can’t, however, be entirely blamed for this laissez-faire attitude on the part of our leaders to perform a constituted responsibility.
This vital institution was established as far back as eight years ago — in 2010. This was under the leadership of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when the Act to establish the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) was passed into law by the members of the 52nd Legislature.
As a part of Madam Sirleaf’s bad leadership ability, she didn’t care to constitute this board to make the leadership of LMHRA runs the Authority being cognizant that there are 11 persons standing over their shoulders and monitoring everything that they are doing in the interest of the entity and the country.
This Act establishes the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority so as to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines and health products (as defined) used in the Republic of Liberia. “Medicine” and “health products” shall include remedies for animals. The functions and duties of the Authority shall include, to conduct registration of medicines and health products; to issue licenses or permits for premises and personnel to engage in the manufacture, storage, distribute, supplied and sold; confiscate expired, substandard, counterfeit, or unregistered medicines in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Authority under this Act, and consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act of the Republic of Liberia and with due process of law; establish and operate quality control laboratories to ensure safe, effective, and good quality medicines and health products for domestic and foreign markets.
Also the LMHRA was established to conduct post-marketing surveillance of medicines and health products; conduct Pharmacovigilance of medicines and health products; issue warnings and conduct recalls of products in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Authority under this Act, and consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act of the Republic of Liberia and with due process of law; regulate the conduct of clinical studies of medicines and health products among others.
While the wait is going on, meanwhile, the streets in Monrovia and other major cities around the country, are being flooded with counterfeit medicinal products.
Unsophisticated and ordinary Liberians are constantly falling prey for these very substandard tablets and other products on the market.
Unsuspectingly, these Liberians think that they are consuming these fake medicines to help remedy their sick conditions. Unfortunately, they are in no doubt enhancing negatively their ill conditions thereby taking themselves slowly toward their graves.
Some major stakeholders in this sector have blamed the President for this, too. They think because there is no board to watch over the leadership of the LMHRA, things are not going right on the Liberian Market. They are probably right.
Mr. Henry Wolokolie, President of the Liberia Consumer Protection Association, thinks that the delay in the board constitution and subsequent appointment of a managing director to effectively run the day-to-day affairs of the Authority, is one reason why the market is constantly flooded with substandard medicines.
“Authorities at the Ministry of Health should advise the President about such a vital institution,” Wolokollie emphasized.
According to him, if he were operating or running a pharmacy, the present leadership managing the affairs of the LMHRA, would not have the power to arrest or close his facility if they suspect that he’s doing some wrong things as “they are operating illegally because they were not officially appointed by the President.”
As a result of the delay in constituting board members, Wolokollie maintained the authority has not been able to regulate and monitor the importation, distribution and retailing of pharmaceuticals on the Liberian market. This also has to do with local herbalists, who are serving, too, as traditional healers.
“The continuous and prolonged delay in the constitution of the Board and the subsequent appointment of its Managing Director are leading to a serious health issue and are putting the health of consumers at a serious risk,” Wolokollie added.
He fears that this delay is leading to the continual influx of substandard and counterfeit medicines on the Liberian market.
This article was first published on July 10, 2018