Liberia: CCSOs writes Legislature for increment in LMHRA budget

Madam Keturah C. Smith-Chineh, LMHRA MD and Movement for Justice in Liberia ED, John Pangbe,

MONROVIA – Having evaluated the enormous efforts being exerted over the last two years by the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA); to weed substandard, falsified, and counterfeit medicines from the Liberian market, and ensure quality medicines reach the populace; the Consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CCSOs) has written the Honorable Liberian Senate, calling for an increment in the budgetary allocation for the LMHRA in the draft 2022 national budget.

Addressing a joint news conference over the weekend, the Movement for Justice in Liberia; the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO); Movement against Violence and Impunity in Africa (MAVIA); Foundation for Better Liberia (FOBEL); and Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition (LCACC) jointly called on the Legislature to increase the budget of the LMHRA from US$1.4 million to at least5 million dollars.

According to the Consortium of Civil Society Organizations, they have with keen interest, painstakingly realized the need for increment for the LMHRA within the upcoming National Draft Budget recently passed by the House of Representatives and now under scrutiny by the Liberian Senate.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Consortium, the Executive Director of the Movement for Justice in Liberia, John Pangbe, called on the Liberian Senate to increase the budgetary allocation of the LMHRA from US$1.4 million to at least US$5 million, to enable the entity to execute their full mandate and save the Liberian public from the proliferation of expired drugs, most especially in the rural parts of Liberia where due to low budgetary allotment the LMHRA is not fully visible; and because the US$1.4m only covers staff salaries.

The Movement for Justice in Liberia Executive Director further asserted that the LMHRA’s objectives and goals are aligned with the Government of Liberia’s Vision to “Build more capable and trusted state institutions that will lead to a stable, resilient, and inclusive nation as outlined within the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) 2018 to 2023. The PAPD seeks to expand access to essential health services and, in doing so, to promote a healthy and thriving citizenry and economic productivity.

Pangbe so intimated that Goal-3 of the PAPD seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of all inhabitants of Liberia, therefore, among the strategies outlined in the agenda to achieve Goal-3, is to strengthen the LMHRA by establishing an appropriate quality assurance (QA) laboratory for testing of medicines and health products as well as technology to identify and destroy expired, counterfeit and damaged medicines and medical supplies; and also improve the storage facilities at central and decentralized levels which are part of the inspectorate functions of the LMHRA.

According to him, the LMHRA remains key to the achievement of the above-mentioned objectives and goals of the PAPD. Wherein a well-functioning healthcare system depends upon the availability and affordability of medical products that are safe, effective, and of consistently assured quality. Pangbe emphasized that effective medicines regulation promotes and protects public health by ensuring that: medicines are of the required quality, safety, and efficacy; medicines are appropriately manufactured, stored, distributed, and dispensed; illegal manufacturing and trade are detected and adequately sanctioned; health professionals and patients have the necessary information to enable them to use medicines rationally; that promotion and advertising are fair, balanced and aimed at rational drug use.

Additionally, he argued that Sustainable Development Goal-3, also demands “access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” Hence, experience teaches that it is impossible without robust, well-designed regulatory and procurement systems; thus, support to the LMHRA aligns directly with SDG Goal-3.

“Given the following mentioned supra, ladies and gentlemen of the press, looking at the mandate of the LMHRA which is to ensure that within the national medical supply chain, safe, effective, and functional quality medicine reach the Liberian public, the Consortium of Civil Society Organizations is calling on the Legislature through the Honorable Liberian Senate to increase the budgetary allocation of the LMHRA from US$1.4 million to at least US$5 million, to enable the entity to execute their full mandate and save the Liberian public from the proliferation of expired drugs, most especially in the rural parts of Liberia where due to low budgetary allotment the LMHRA is not fully visible. It is important to note that the US$1.4m only covers staff salaries,” Pangbe’s emphasized.

The LMHRA is the statutory arm of the Government of Liberia with a responsibility to ensure that all medicines and health products circulating the borders of Liberia are safe, of good quality, and efficacious.

The LMHRA was established based on provisions of the National Drug Policy for the establishment of a Medicines Regulatory Authority to enact and update medicines regulations; to regulate the pharmaceutical sector and the establishment of a national quality control laboratory under the authority.

Since the establishment of the LMHRA in September 2010 and with the appointment of Madam Keturah C. Smith-Chineh

in 2019; under her able stewardship for the past two years, the LMHRA with minimum budgetary allotment has been able to achieve the followings:  human resource development and staffs training; regular provision of laboratory supplies; effective supervision team for inspection purpose; strengthening of LMHRA offices in Region-2 (Bong, Lofa, and Nimba); the opening of sub-office at the Roberts International Airports (RIA); as well as opening another office in Region-3, Bo Waterside, Grand Cape Mount County, covering three counties (Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu).

Under Madam Smith-Chineh’s stewardship over the last two years also, shensuresre sure the construction of a mini-quality control laboratory facility; regular monitoring of pharmacies and drug stores around the country;  effective public education, and Post Market Surveillance mechanism put in place to alleviate medicines being sold in buckets by street peddlers; provision of vehicles for staff; the provision of medical insurance, and the completion of the foundation for an ultra-modern Quality Control Laboratory Complex for testing all medicines and health products coming into the country, including cosmetics, with the cost at US$4.1million.