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Kenyans exposed to sub-standard drugs for 3yrs

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – The Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board (KPPB) has admitted that it cleared a substandard antibiotic into the Kenyan market three years ago and only realised its mistake this year.

The Chief Pharmacist Kipkerich Koskei and the Board’s Chairman Francis Kimani however contradicted themselves before the Parliamentary Committee on Health as the Board made a third appearance before the House team.

Mr Kimani said that the drugs had not been cleared into the country but Dr Koskei explained that the antibiotics had been recalled and samples taken for analysis to figure out what Kenyans had been exposed to for the past three years.

At one point Committee Chairman Robert Monda (Nyaribari Chache) seemed to be running out of patience and even threatened to put the Board members on oath to compel them to give honest testimonies.

“The Registrar has already told the committee that the drugs were recalled from the Kenyan market and that they took samples of Kamoxin 1000 milligrams to the laboratory for testing,” noted Dr Monda.

“Can you put your heads together, the Registrar and Board Chairman, so that you give us one position,” he charged.

It also emerged that the Board granted import licenses for Panadol Advance tablets, Beechams Night and Day Nurse, in 2010, to two pharmaceutical companies yet the drugs had not yet been registered for the Kenyan market.

The matter was raised by Nyando MP Fred Outa who added that the drugs’ manufacturing company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was yet to get their licensing certificate.

Asked whether or not the drugs had now been registered, Dr Koskei said he needed more time to get the right documents to verify the correct position.

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“Metro Pharmaceutical Limited and Ripple Pharmaceutical Limited were allowed to import them in February 2010 so GSK complained to the Board noting that though the drugs were theirs and had not been registered for the Kenyan market they were already being circulated,” explained Mr Outa.

In 2005 the Board also allowed a single local pharmaceutical company to import 800 kilogrammes of Ephedrin, a controlled substance, before the United Nations raised the red flag. This matter is currently before the High Court.

Kenya is only allowed to import 1000 kilogrammes of the product per year with individual local companies being allowed a maximum of 200 kilogrammes. In addition Kenya is allowed to import one gramme of pure Cannabis Sativa per year.

Dr Koskei explained that such imports must be reported to the International Narcotics Control Board for accountability purposes.

“It had been realised that, in the wrong hands, it can be used to manufacture amphetamine like stimulants so its movements are controlled worldwide,” he explained.

Mr Outa and nominated MP Nur Ahmed had earlier proposed that the Board members be put on oath.

The probe, which had to be concluded so that committee members could attend Parliament, was also postponed for September 6. Dr Monda warned the members against attending the meeting unprepared saying the matter should have been concluded already.

“We will make a follow up of the importation of Ephedrin and therefore you will have to go back as far as 10 years from today so that you do not come here with any unclear impressions. You will also be required to provide documentary support of any statement you make before this committee,” said Dr Monda.

The Board is also facing allegations that some of its members work for pharmaceutical companies or pharmacies that they should be investigating.

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Dr Monda further observed that there were also reports that some of the staff at the Board were carrying out parallel importations of pharmaceuticals. The Board will also be required to explain how a consignment of drugs found itself into the Kenyan market, through the Kilindini Port, without its knowledge.


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