LMHRA Opens Regional Offices At Border Points Across Liberia

To Combat Substandard & Falsified Medicines From Entering Liberia:

As the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), strives to ensure that Substandard and Falsified (SF) Medicines do not enter the borders of Liberia; the authority has moved swiftly by establishing offices at key border points across the country.

So far, LMHRA has divided the country into five parts, thereby opening sub-offices in three of the five regions identified. Currently, the authority has its presence at the nation’s international airport, the Roberts International Airport (RIA), and that office controls Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa Counties.  Region two which comprises Bong, Nimba, and Lofa Counties, and has its office stationed at the Ganta-Guinea Border in Nimba County.

At the same time, LMHRA has also established its Region Three office at the Liberia-Sierra Leone border post, situated at Bo-Waterside in Grand Cape Mount County. Region Three office is responsible for Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, and Gbarpolu Counties.

Speaking at the official opening of the region’s two offices, LMHRA Managing Director, Pharmacist Keturah Smith-Chineh, warned the public to stop buying medicines from those selling medicines in buckets, on open market tables, and back bags. While at the same time, she admonished pharmacies and medicines store owners to seek approval from the authority before importing medicines into Liberia.

The newly-opened LMHRA Regional office in Nimba County will serve the three counties. The office seeks to ensure that substandard and counterfeit medicines are not smuggled into the country through the Ganta-Guinea border as well as other porous border points in the central-northern region of Liberia.

As part of efforts to decentralize LMHRA activities throughout Liberia, Managing Director Smith-Chineh is ensuring that the LMHRA’s mandate is felt throughout the country through the establishment of offices in the various regions of Liberia.

“If we relaxed, those that sell substandard and falsified medicines or those that sell in buckets will always try to come through our porous borders. But inasmuch we can be stationed to the main border and make our presence felt at those various porous border points, we believe those results we anticipate will yield fruits in the coming years,” Managing Director Smith-Chineh emphasized.

Madam Smith-Chineh also praised the Joint Security actors for collaborating with the LMHRA to prevent the entry of substandard and falsified medicines into the country.

According to her, due to the collaboration with the Joint Security actors and the Liberia Revenue Authority, there is a drastic reduction in the proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines, while at the same time, the country is being free of poisonous medicines and those selling medicines in buckets and streets corners are being deterred from selling to citizens of the country.

 She added: “Not only at the Ganta border, initially when were we situated in Bong County, also received similar reception from joint security actors and the local county authority. So it shows that Liberians are ready to take their health into their own hands.”

Also speaking, the representative of the joint security at the Ganta-Guinea border, Officer Nohn Tensonen, also vowed to double their efforts in working with the staff of the LMHRA to guide the borders against any illegal entry of substandard and falsified medicines entering the country.

“We will be there for you people, we’ve worked with others in the past, and we are willing to work with your team here to ensure the issue of illegal importation of medicines through the borders is curtailed.

Making remarks on behalf of the Mayor of Ganta City, Africano Dolo, Administrative Assistant to the City Mayor of Ganta, pledged the city government’s commitment to work and support the LMHRA team in Nimba to achieve their objectives.

According to him, the team headed by Pharmacist Anthony Baysah is trusted, therefore, he urged all city governments around the country where LMHRA has a presence to work with the authority to raid the society of substandard and falsified medicines.

Dolo further emphasized that no Government will want to see her citizens dying mysteriously, especially as a result of consuming poisonous medications. Hence, he urged the joint security in Ganta to work with the LMHRA team in Ganta as they go about executing their regulatory functions.

Representing the Liberian Pharmacy Board, Pharmacist Joe Mulbah, Regional Coordinator for Lofa, Bong, and Nimba, cautioned owners of pharmacies and medicines stores not to use their facilities as clinics.

He recommended to the LMHRA, to establish an incineration (burning) site in that region to avoid unwanted or expired medications traveling from those counties to Monrovia before being burned; as it would lead to it going back on the market and being consumed by the citizenry.

The Liberia Pharmacy Board Regional Coordinator also admonished the LMHRA to ensure vigorous regulations and sensitization efforts aimed at ensuring that falsified medicines should are taken off the market.

Attorney Stephen Quoi, Roving Prosecutor for Nimba County, further encouraged the LMHRA to involve the various Town Chiefs in the three counties, in the fight against the illegal importation as well as the sale of substandard, falsified, and expired drug medicines in the region.

Making special remarks, Bong County Superintendent, Esther Walker noted that without quality medicines, Liberians will not be discussing the issue about 2023 elections; because if Liberians must elect their leaders, they have to be healthy.

She vowed to discuss with other Counties’ Superintendents in the region and the joint security actors to work vigorously with the LMHRA to protect the citizens by going against those illegally importing and selling substandard and falsified medicines in the country.

“We are also talking with other Superintendents to provide land for the LMHRA to build her own office like it was done in Bong County. Therefore, we will ensure the land in Bong County is surveyed, deeded, probated, and turned over to the LMHRA for her work. We as lieutenants of the President have to work assiduously to achieve his agenda and pave the way for his re-election in 2023,” Superintendent Walker noted.

For his part, the Senior Program Officer for the United States Pharmacopeia PQM+, Theophilius Ndorbor, indicated that decentralization played a major role in the regulatory functions of the LMHRA.

According to him, decentralizing LMHRA plays a key role in revamping the regulatory objectives of the authority. Hence, Mr. Ndorbor noted that the establishment of the LMHRA office at the Ganta-Guinea border is a major step since the creation of the authority.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ndobor has assured USP PQM+ commitment to working with the LMHRA through pieces of training and other technical support aimed at ensuring that the regulatory authority meets its objectives.

Also, the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), Managing Director, Pharmacist Keturah Smith-Chineh, further admonished staff assigned at the Gbarpolu, Bomi, and, Grand Cape Mount Counties (Region-3) detachment, to work robustly to discourage drugs peddling and also vigilantly ensure that pharmaceuticals do not enter the country through the land borders.

Madam Smith-Chineh also made these remarks at the program marking the official dedication of a refurbished LMHRA Region-3 office and turning over a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser jeep to be used in that part of the country.

According to her, the latest move by management is part of efforts to decentralize the activities of the authority; thus urging the team to robustly manned the border against all illegal entry of medicines and health products.

Managing Director Smith-Chineh used the occasion to laud the Joint Security and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) as well as the local officials in the Western region of Liberia for the teamwork over the years, in assisting the LMHRA to effectively execute its mandate.

She also urged officials of the three counties and the public to join ranks with the LMHRA to create a massive awareness of the harm associated with the sale of medicines in buckets, open areas, and back bags.

Meanwhile, Managing Director Smith-Chineh has disclosed plans for authority in the coming months to begin the burning of expired medicines from health facilities and those confiscated in the regions beginning with Grand Cape Mount County with the meager resources the entity generates.

According to her, it is very expensive for the LMHRA to transport expiries from the various health facilities around the country to its incineration site in Margibi County; owing to budgetary constraints.

Making official remarks at the ceremony, Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent, Aaron Vincent commended the joint security and the LRA, for the collaboration accorded the LMHRA and further cautioned citizens’ not to buy medicines from those selling in the buckets and open areas.

He also ordered local officials and the security apparatus of Grand Cape Mount County to assist the authority by arresting anyone caught selling medication in the open and in buckets.

Similarly, Bomi County Superintendent, Adama Dolley, noted that the inefficiency of medicines is causing too many deaths, therefore illegal entry and sales of medicines should be discouraged.

In that light, he has given strict instruction to the LMHRA along with police of the county to arrest illegal sellers of medicines or pharmaceuticals in Bomi County.

Superintendent Dolley called on the three counties’ authorities to take bold steps in assisting the LMHRA to achieve its mandate in the interest of the citizens of that region.

However, he stressed the need for the LMHRA to continue creating awareness, and also provide adequate manpower in these counties to effectively combat drug peddling.

Also speaking, the Board Chairman of the Liberia Pharmacy Board (LPB), Dr. Joseph Weah, asserted that it is the responsibility of the pharmacy board to work along with the LMHRA to ensure that only train practitioners dispense drugs and further ensure that medicines provided to the citizenry are safe and effective.

For his part, the Head of the Joint Security at the Bo-water Side, Major Saxon Tamgbo, recalled how tough it was at first in establishing the LMHRA regional office in that part of the country, however, he pledged the security fullest support to the LMHRA.

According to him, they have worked with the LMHRA since their establishment to make several arrests of illegal pharmaceutical products from vehicles transporting from Bo Waterside to Sierra Leone.

“So, the joint security will continue to work with the team to inspect all pharmacies and health facilities as well as ensure the arrest of any illegal pharmaceuticals entering the country,” Major Tamgbo pledged.

Representing the Pharmacy Owners of Gbarpolu, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, Cllr. Clarence Feikai emphasized the need for more manpower in region-3 cannot over-emphasized as the current workforce is less.

According to him, it is challenging to get the drug peddlers from the streets, however, he appreciated the LMHRA for establishing an office at Bo-waterside in Cape Mount which will help get rid of or minimize these drugs peddlers because they (drug peddlers) are pharmacy owners out of business.

Cllr. Fekai commended the management for procuring and assigning a new land cruiser jeep to the region for the smooth operations of their work.

In remarks also, the Chief Collector of LRA, Nicholas Doe, indicated that the revenue authority has been confiscating illegal medicines entering the borders prior to the establishment of the LMHRA office.

Mr. Doe vowed that the LRA, working with the LMHRA, will not allow any pharmaceuticals to pass through any of its land borders.

He further admonished the LMHRA to create more public awareness.

In separate remarks, the Township Commissioner of Bo-waterside, Miatta Kamara, and Tewor District Commissioner, Haji Jaleiba, noted that Government needs to put medicines in various hospitals and clinics, most especially the ones run the by Government of Liberia because it will stop people from buying street medications. They cautioned their citizens not to buy from the street peddlers.