The Gambia Police Force had since October 8, 2022, launched an investigation into the death of over 69 children due to the outbreak of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) in The Gambia.
A few days later, precisely on 11th October, the police issued their first public statement to give an update on their investigation to the general public.
However, the police investigation disclosed that Atlantic Pharmaceuticals Company was granted permission to import medicines and medical-related products in The Gambia.
The police investigation further revealed that: “Atlantic Pharmaceuticals Company Limited ordered a quantity of 15, 000 bottles of makoff baby cough syrups of 100ml, 15, 000 bottles of magrip and cold syrups of 100ml, 10, 000 bottles of promethazine baby syrups of 100ml and 10, 000 kofexmalin baby cough syrups of 125ml.“
According to the police, 50, 000 bottles of contaminated baby syrups were imported and sold to retailers, out of which 41, 462 bottles were quarantined and seized by MCA, following the outbreak which killed over 69 children.
The police further disclosed that 8, 538 bottles remained unaccounted for.
Since then, no one has been arrested and charged for being a suspect or an accomplice in this matter. I understand people have been questioned as part of the investigation which is still ongoing.
As a matter of fact, even before or without the police investigation, all the members of the Medicine Control Agency (MCA) should have been rounded up and investigated, charged with negligence of duty, which led to this corrupt act that killed our innocent and vulnerable children.
The President should have asserted authority and sacked his Health minister too and dissolve the MCA, and appoint a fresh team of committed Gambians to take charge of the control of medicines entering the country.
The job of the MCA includes issuing licenses, monitoring, and testing of medical drugs before they are allowed into the country, etc.
Therefore, if the MCA had done its job properly, it would have detected these contaminated syrups even before the AKI outbreak. The MCA would have then alerted the government through the Health ministry and would take necessary measures against the importers to whom they granted licenses to import such medicine.
In all honesty, it looks like the MCA is more concerned about medicines circulating within the country than medicines coming into the country. The justification is this AKI outbreak, and the first phase of the police report has further justified this. The MCA acted after the disaster happened and seized the contaminated syrups but could not effectively do its job at the time these medicines were being imported. This is an act of negligence and they should be reprimanded for it. No one can tell all that happened until we reached this point where over 69 children died. This is a serious matter involving lives and the government should take drastic measures against anyone involved either directly or indirectly.
These syrups are obtained from private pharmacies and private pharmacy owners are granted Licenses to operate. There are three (3) categories of Licenses issued by the MCA, and they are License A, B, and C.
License A holders are the ones authorised by the government to import medicine but these medicines should be controlled and monitored by the MCA. Medical drugs should be monitored and tested before being accepted into the country.
License A holders can buy drugs directly from Pharmaceutical companies and import them.
License B is given to medical doctors, senior nurses, or junior pharmacists. These people have no rights to import drugs but can buy drugs directly from License A holders. However, there is a specific list of drugs that B License holders have to sell, which includes all the syrups that are said to have been contaminated.
License C is below the B License and is given to junior nurses and pharmacy assistants. They are also entitled to sell fewer drugs which include all the concerned syrups (cough syrups and paracetamol syrups).
Mayor problem in the pharmacy business
A major problem in the pharmacy business in the Gambia is the issue of license renting. This is been used as a lucrative business by some license holders but it is causing havoc for our country. Those who rent licenses would care about the quality of drugs they buy and import. They will be more concerned with the money or profit they will have than the people’s health concerns.
Some of them will claim partnership instead of renting their License but that is not true. They are playing on our minds and it is high time we wake up to these realities.
Besides, the Gambia government should take our health matters more seriously and kick out the Indians and Lebanese from the Pharmacy business. They are part of the problem we are facing.
In a nutshell, the MCA is more concerned about circulating drugs than the drugs being imported and that is why I asked why are they not arrested and charged. Someone must be responsible and the victims deserve justice.