6 February 2013

Liberia: Govt. Gets Tough On 'Black-Bag' Doctors

Photo: Roger Bate
Distinguishing between a legitimate medicine (left) and an illegitimate medicine (right) takes training and specialized equipment.

The Government of Liberia says the sale of medicine in street corners, market tables and in unregistered drug stores or pharmacies by vendors and individuals purporting to be doctors continues to threaten the lives of the Liberian people.

"The situation continues to cause serious harm to the health and sometimes deaths among our people, creating undue pressure to the health care delivery system of the country as most of the medicines acquire from these sources are either fake or are poor quality..." Mr. David Sumo, Managing Director of the Liberia Medicine and Health Product Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) said.

Addressing a press conference in Monrovia yesterday, Mr. Sumo said as part of effort to curtail the problem and improve the retail distribution system in the country, the government would continue to vigorously monitor, regulate and arrest or confiscate all 'black-bags and un authorized drug vendors in the country as provided by the laws of Liberia.

He disclosed that as part of the solution to the problem, the government is expected to launch the Accredited Medicine Store (AMS) program. Sumo said the AMS program would accredit, through registration, provide training for medicine stores owners/dispensers in properly managing the facilities to the required standard for operation in the country.

Mr. Sumo stated that the goal of the AMS program is to improve access to quality and essential medicines as well as services to increase pharmaceutical services for the population.

"The AMS program will also ensure that only quality and affordable medicines are sold in a standard-clean environment (stores) across Liberia and that these medicines are dispensed appropriately by people that have been trained and empowered with the required knowledge and skills..." the LMHRA boss said.

The AMS program is a component of a Sustainable Drug Sellers initiative (SDSI) project launched in 2011 by the LMHRA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Pharmacy Board of Liberia (PBL) with support from other international partners.

For his part, the Chairman of PBL, Beyan Johnson said the AMS program would also ensure that the citizens are sensitized about the harm that open and fake drugs are causing to their lives in the country.

"If the people are aware of the harm its pose to their health, they will not buy it...and if the people refused to buy from these street vendors, they, too will not sell..." Mr. Johnson said.

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