Mr Vigil Edward Prah-Ashun, Head of Marketing and Surveillance at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), has hinted that the Authority was working with relevant authorities to get a special court for prosecuting people who sell Substandard and Falsified (SF) medical products.
He said some cases involving SF drugs dealers took long time to prosecute in normal court, with some lasting for three to four years, which was not helpful, hence the move to get a special court to fast track prosecution of these cases.
Mr Prah-Ashun, speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting in Ho, in the Volta region, which looked at possible ways of addressing the issues of SF on the market, noted that when such cases were quickly prosecuted and perpetrators punished, it would serve as deterrent to others.
He said a survey conducted by the Authority in collaboration with Promoting Quality of Medicines (PQM) programme of the USP in 2018, revealed a high prevalence of SF medical products on the market.
Mr Prah-Ashun said antimalarials, analgesics, antibiotics, anthelmintics, and uterotonics were amongst the most commonly SF medical products captured by the survey and called for support from various stakeholders to tackle the issue.
The incidence of SF antimalarials on the market has reduced from 39.6 per cent in 2009 to 1.4 per cent in 2018, while uterotonics remained a challenge. The proportion of SF oxytocin which was 58.1 per cent in 2015 has reduced to 49.4 per cent in 2018, while ergometrine increased from 62.8 per cent in 2015 to 100 per cent in 2018, he said.
Mr Prah-Ashun said in 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Fund supported the Authority to carry out a post-market surveillance on antibiotics, antimalarials and HIV RDTs, and the result showed “a 100 per cent pass for antiretrovials sampled and tested, while there was a 37 per cent failure rate of HIV RDTs”.
He said another nationwide survey conducted by WHO on the behaviour of the Ghanaian public towards SF medicines as part of efforts to minimise the menace of these drugs in the country, which sampled 1,031 adults from 18 years and above revealed that most people were not aware of these SF medical products on the market.
Mr Prah-Ashun disclosed that with the help of WHO the Authority had currently developed some messages in form of jingles and posters to help sensitise the citizens on the situation, and called on all including the media to assist in the campaign.
He said as part of measures to deal with the situation, the FDA was intensifying its Pre-and Post-Market Surveillance (PMS) activities on pharmaceutical products to ensure that registered products conform to their marketing authorisation.
Mr Prah-Ashun said they were also taking necessary steps to ensure that unregistered products were removed from the market for public health and safety and that only quality, safe and efficacious medicines remained on the market for the consumer.
Other measures include, safety monitoring or pharmacovigilance of regulated products, product quality monitoring which is a risk-based sampling and testing of pharmaceutical products, intensification of import and export control activities at major points of entry, safe disposal of unwholesome or unwanted products and formation of Inter- Agency Committee on SF products.
He said low-and-middle income countries as well was countries in conflict zones, where health systems were not strong mostly bore the greatest burden of SF, as a result, it was estimated that one in 10 medical products in low-and-middle income countries was substandard or falsified.
Mr Gordon Kwabena Akurugu, Volta Regional Director of FDA, said the Authority as a regulator had done lots of work with regards to SF medicines, and would not relent in its efforts to ensure that such products were removed from the market.
He said the issue of SF medical products was a global one, and not limited to Ghana alone, and WHO was much concerned about the situation and developing every necessary mechanisms to reduce it to the barest minimum.
Mr Akurugu said substandard medical products were those that failed to treat the disease or condition for which they were intended, while falsified drugs were those deliberately or fraudulently misrepresented in terms of their identity, composition or source.
He said the SF medical products might contain no active ingredient, the wrong active ingredient or wrong amount of the correct active ingredient and could lead to serious health consequences including death.
Mr Akurugu disclosed that it was estimated that 30.5 billion USA dollars was being spent in low-and-middle income countries to address the issue of SF medical products.
He said more lives were being lost through the use of these drugs, hence the need for the citizens to be mindful when buying medical products, and also report any such products to appropriate authorities for quick action.
Mr Akurugu said his outfit would continue to collaborate with security services at the borders to prevent entry of such products into the country, stressing that by the FDA control system, medicines were not to be cleared at inland borders.