August 2, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura
The Registrar of Pharmacy Board has urged parliamentarians to enact laws that will establish additional medical institutions to train more pharmacists.
Wiltshire Johnson said despite successes in the past years, they are currently faced with numerous challenges and that there was need to do more, stating that pharmaceutical laws have become obsolete.
He called on the government to remove the 25% tax on drugs importation and harmonise best practices in importing medicines in a bid to encourage investment in the medical sector.
“We used to have community pharmacy practice which is almost dead now because doctors and nurses are selling drugs. You go to the hospitals you will see them selling drugs at the wards. There are PHUs peripheral health units] in the chiefdom but once a person falls ill with headache, he or she has to walk almost four or five miles to get to the centre. There is need for additional pharmacy training institutions in the country to at least stop drug peddlers roaming the street,” he said.
He lamented that drug peddling was in the increase and that violence on the streets has become a menace, hence the need for zero tolerance by government as was in the case during the Ebola epidemic.
“Sierra Leone today has been known for its lawlessness in the health sector and people continue to sell medicines like peanuts in the country,” he said.
He said the Board lacks the required number of personnel across the country while some lack knowledge to carry out the work, adding that some 49% of 190 chiefdoms have no patent stores with license to operate.
He said: “If these chiefdoms do not have drug stores, it means that they are buying from those drug peddlers with poor knowledge of community health, hence the need to establish special access scheme for deprived areas of the community.
“The laws are there and we know what to do and when to use them. We all know that drug peddling is illegal. Why then do we continue to allow people to kill our citizens I don’t know? We need to look into it with all seriousness. Porosity of our borders is of concern. We were unable to produce ordinary ORS [oral rehydration salt] and the people over here need to grow their economy. As a nation, we rely hundred percent on importation of medicine and that alone is a security threat.”
Mr. Johnson cited transparency and ethics in the health sector as big concerns. “It is cheap for one to buy ten tablets of tramadol to that of a beer.”
He maintained that the country needs stronger community engagement, innovative ways for funding drugs regulations, need for a national pharmacy manufacturing use and a national master plan.
Earlier, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Dr. Abdulia Sesay, said the engagement was a golden opportunity for Members of Parliament to know the operations of the Board and their objectives and challenges.
“All of us here deal with medicines, therefore there is need to know the purity and harmful part [and] if those drugs that people consume everyday are standard. The importation of drugs is of concern to all of us as citizens. The challenges of countering those imported drugs should be our concern. Hope that both Parliament and the Board could come together to combat this issue amicably,” he said.
However, Hon. Dickson Rogers expressed doubt as to whether most chiefdoms lack drug stores, adding that the current figure quoted may have been sourced before the de-amalgamation of chiefdoms, hence the need to conduct another survey.
He urged his colleagues to make sure that at least one or two patent stores are established in their constituency in order to put drug peddlers out of business.
Hon. Moiwai Momoh expressed fears about the health system of the country, stating that investment in the community includes the health sector and that there was need for thorough and robust monitoring of drug peddlers.
“Recently in my constituency, I lost one 30-year-old man due to a drug meant for hookworms given to him by a drug peddler who has no knowledge of how hookworms affect people. And just by looking at the man he gave him the drugs which led to his sudden death. We really need to pay attention to them,” urged the opposition lawmaker.
Deputy Chairman of Health Committee, Hon. Alhassan Kamara of Constituency 96, said it was the duty of Members of Parliament to look into issues highlighted by the Registrar of the Board, including taxation of imported drugs, in order to put a stop to people accessing fatal drugs from neighbouring countries.
“We will be giving you update on the way forward in making laws that will benefit the country from time to time,” he said.