WAPCP Charges Pharmacists to Tackle Drug Counterfeiting

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– Inducts 81 new Fellows at 36th AGM

A cross-section of Fellows at the conference.

The West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) has lamented the proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines in the West African sub-region, stressing that the menace has become a major threat that must be tackled.

The college therefore calls on the member nations, namely Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, to be resolute in engaging robust systems that will help neutralise the threat.

This was the trust of the 36th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Symposium of the college, held from 15 to 18 April 2024, at the Kairaba Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia.

The conference, which had the theme, “Medicine Security”, also had sub-themes, such as “Pharmacovigilance: A Regional Imperative for Operations Safety” and “Pharmaceutical System Strengthening: The African Challenge”.

In his address, President of the college, Alhaji Murtada Sesay, noted that every member nation needs to take medicines safety as a priority.

According to him, while the issue of medicines safety may have been discussed on several occasions over the years, the fact that old problems manifest in new guises necessitates responding intellectually and practically to protect and promote public health.

Sesay said, “The recent problem of acute kidney injury and its evolution, subsequently associated with consumption of contaminated paediatric syrups, as well as the consequent deaths of over 70 children here in The Gambia in 2022, is one which promptly engaged the attention and proactive action of our college.

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“Sadly, this is a problem which has occurred in other parts of the world and must be prevented from recurring in our region and, indeed, any part of the world. There could not have been a better justification for the theme of our 2024 AGM.”

Also speaking, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of The Gambia, Mrs Markieu Janneh Kaira, noted that the menace of substandard and falsified medicines is one that affects several countries – including the five member nations of the college – annually.

Referring to the 2022 incident in The Gambia that led the tragic loss of many young lives, Kaira said: “This incident alone highlights the importance and need for governments to strengthen their health systems, especially pharmaceutical and regulatory systems, as well as increase the technical workforce; so they can effectively execute their mandates to ensure that good quality healthcare services, safe and efficacious medicines are available to the people.”

Chairman of The Gambia chapter of the college, Mr Jimmy Olu Coker, disclosed that managing medications can be complicated, particularly drugs that treat different conditions. He, therefore, stressed the significance of the theme of medicine safety and pharmacovigilance in addressing the misuse and abuse of medicines in the region.

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The two keynote addresses, delivered by Mr Samba Sowe, representing Professor Pierre Gomez, The Gambian Minister of Higher Education; and Pharm. Omotayo Hamzat, a WHO representative from Nigeria, emphasised the importance of medicine safety in promoting public health.

The keynote speakers lamented that the increasing incidence of substandard and falsified medicines is a great threat to the West African region, stating that member states must be resolute in addressing it urgently.

According to the speakers, medicine safety is the right of every patient, and pharmacists, who are custodians of medicines, must work in synergy in the region to address the issues of substandard and falsified medicines.

Speaking on one of the sub-themes of the symposium, “Pharmacovigilance: A Regional Imperative For Operations Safety”, a consultant toxicologist, Professor Olufunsho Awodele, emphasised the urgent need to mobilise more resources to strengthen the existing pharmacovigilance systems in West Africa.

Awodele, who is the chairman, Faculty of Public Health Pharmacy, WAPCP, and Pharmacovigilance Programme Coordinator, University of Lagos, noted that Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) are significantly under-reported across the West African Region, adding that mechanisms must be deployed towards monitoring ADR reporting, as a tool for promoting medicine safety.

The speaker noted, with great concern, the emerging health challenges across the region, particularly with regard to ADRs and antimicrobial resistance, charging member states to collaborate in entrenching antimicrobial stewardship with the view to stemming the tide of the increasing incidence of resistant bacterial and viral strains to antibiotics.

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He reiterated the dire need for member countries to present a united front in promoting antimicrobial stewardship by making concerted efforts to advocate public enlightenment and educational programmes.

The high point of the conference was the induction of 81 new Fellows into different specialties in Pharmacy. The college also inducted 12 Fellows by election, two Fellows as honorary, and eight as foundation Fellows from Francophone countries.

Alhaji Sesay congratulated the new Fellows and urged them to be worthy representatives of the college. He also charged all Fellows of the college in all member nations to protect the interest of the college.

“I encourage all of us to continue to promote the mission and vision of the college wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself, especially in the maintenance of our core values of excellence, integrity, innovation, and transparency,” Sesay said.

Mrs Kaira of The Gambia, while congratulating the new Fellows, urged them to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and professional prowess they had acquired during their rigorous training.

Chairman of Gambia Chapter of the college, Coker, also commended the new Fellows for their dedication, even as he welcomed colleagues from the Francophone countries into the college.

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