Crackdown exposes drugs scam at KEMSA

July 28, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 28 – A nationwide crackdown by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has unearthed a major scandal implicating the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) in the sale of drugs meant for public hospitals.

The Board’s Deputy Registrar Dr Wilfred Oguta said Monday that a crackdown conducted at over 1,000 private clinics in seven provinces revealed that fake doctors were selling government-marked drugs.

The Board’s inspectors, he said, had visited Nyanza, Eastern, Western and Rift Valley Provinces. Others toured were Coast and North Eastern.

“It is standard practice that medicines supplied by the government are marked GoK (Government of Kenya), MOH (Ministry of Health) or Not for sale,” he explained.

“So when we find any product which could be having those marks or where those marks may have been rubbed, then what we do is verify that this product could have been a GoK drug by checking the batch number.”

Dr Oguta said it was difficult to trace the source of the medicine, because those selling them were not willing to divulge any information.

“Sometimes it is theft,” stated Dr Oguta.

He said the board had passed on the information to the Ministry of Medical Services and the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) to investigate the suspect supply of the drugs.

Currently, KEMSA is the only authorised government agency charged with procuring and distributing pharmaceuticals to public hospitals in the country.

But the agency has been accused of corruption and inefficiency, which recently led to the dissolution of its board.

It’s Chief Executive Officer, Charles Kandie, was also sent on compulsory leave, and a nine-member taskforce formed to investigate operations at the agency.
“Out of the 963 premises inspected, 225 were ordered to close. We have a total number of 148 premises and people being taken to court.”

“There are those who usually close when they hear that inspectors are on the ground. So far we have found around 443 premises closed. Partly we attribute this to the fact that they know they are doing the wrong thing,” he asserted.

Another crackdown on illegal premises and quack doctors in Nairobi began on Monday.

Dr Oguta emphasised that the purpose of the inspection was not to punish indiscriminately but to enforce provisions of the law, which are aimed at ensuring the public gets quality products and services that are protected from unscrupulous traders whose only aim was to make profits.

“The public should be cautious of premises that are closed when inspectors are around – some who even close for a whole week, others close during the day – only to reopen in the evening when the inspectors have left,” he noted.

“Such people play hide-and-seek because they know they are either not qualified and they don’t have licenses or they could be selling drugs from questionable sources.”



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