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What is the board doing to fight fake drugs and educate consumers on this?

In this interactive series, we invite our readers to send in questions to select public figures. Answers will be published in the next print and online editions. This week, Acting Registrar of Pharmacy & Poisons Board Dr Fred Siyoi responds to your questions

 1.What measures are you taking to ensure specialised pharmacists are legally recognised and gazetted as specialists/consultants just like medical doctors?

Dr Yiaile Letoyah, Maasai Mara University

The board in collaboration with the stakeholders has developed “guidelines on recognition of specialisation in pharmacy” which are awaiting gazettement. Once gazetted, pharmacists who have specialised in various areas will be formally recognised by the board.

2. A family member recently bought a cough syrup from a local chemist only to realise it had expired. Upon returning it, the pharmacist replaced it with another whose packaging had different batch numbers from the bottle including the flavour. This raises three questions:

a) What are you doing to educate the public about what to look for especially on over-the-counter medicine such as batch numbers and the shelf life?

The board is implementing a communication strategy. One aspect of the strategy is public awareness about medicine, where to buy and what to look for. The public awareness campaigns have started commenced with road shows in Nairobi, Kisumu, Migori, Kisii and Homa Bay counties. We are also using radio and TV, print and social media. Our Facebook page is Pharmacy & Poisons Board and out twitter handle is @ppbkenya

b) Are you educating the public about counterfeits?

As indicated above the board is conducting various public awareness campaigns. The public is also being encouraged to report any suspected substandard and falsified products to the board.

c) After audits, is it possible for the board to give pharmacies a seal of approval for ease of identification of quality medicine?

Peter Gitau, Kitengela

Only pharmacists and pharmaceutical technologists are licensed to operate a pharmacy and the licence-holder is required to be present on the premises whenever it is open to the public.

The Board issues licences with a photo of the responsible professional for each premise, and the details can be verified electronically through Quick Response codes using any smart phone.

The board also routinely inspects pharmacies. Also all pharmacies have been issued with a Health Safety Code banner which is displayed in the outlets. The public can send an SMS to the board’s database to verify the outlet’s legality before buying drugs.

3.Can you assure the public that the medicine and other health products being distributed in the country comply with acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy?

Andrew Ratemo, Malindi 

Before any medical product is offered for use in Kenya, it must be registered by the board after undergoing a stringent procedure. The registration status is updated annually. The board publishes on its website the list of all registered products.

4. What procedures have you put in place to be adhered to by drug importers to acquire licenses?

Danold Korir, Bomet

As per the law any medical product imported or exported, including donations, must be authorised by the board.

For this authorisation to be issued, the importer or exporter has to be vetted.

Also imported medical products should only pass through designated points of entry where the board’s officers, along with other border control agencies, are deployed for inspection and authorisation.

The board has gazetted 11 points of namely Kilindini Port, Lunga Lunga, Namanga, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, ICD Embakasi, ICD Pepe Athi River, EMS City Square, Isebania, Busia, Malaba and Eldoret International Airport. Plans are underway to designate nine more.

5. The board introduced safety banners to registered premises. This is only sensitising the percentage of the population who are literate. What are you doing to reach out to more Kenyans?

Roy Karani, Thika

The board is using multiple communication channels including community radio stations, road and trade shows, opinion leaders among others to educate the public about the health safety banner.

6. Pharmaceutical technologists in the public sector do not get non-practice allowance neither are they allowed to practise part time as compared to other cadres. Could something be done about this?

Roy Karani, Thika

Although the remuneration of pharmacists is not within the board’s mandate, it has always endeavoured to support professional associations which can agitate for better remuneration of the professionals.

 7. There have been numerous reports to the effect that many of the drugs sold to Kenyans may not be safe due to many factors including corruption in regulatory bodies. What is your take on this?Komen Moris, Eldoret

To minimise the risk of substandard or counterfeit products moving across borders, the board has been enacting strict regulations and working with law enforcement agencies.

The board has ensured that the points of entry are under 24-hour surveillance to prevent cross border drugs crimes, acquired Raman Spectrometer to detect falsified medicine and carries out continuous post market surveillance of medicine in the market.

The board collaborates with international, regional and bilateral organisations such as Interpol and WHO in the fight against substandard medicines.

8.In terms of disposal of pharmaceutical products, does the board have any working arrangement with the National Environment Management Authority to keep the environment safe?

John Muthomi, Nakuru

Safe disposal of pharmaceutical waste is done under supervision of the board through Nema approved deposit sites.

9. What options are available for the diploma students besides specialising in public health? Is there a clear career progression path for the diploma holders?Job Nyang’au, Nairobi

There is already a clear career progression path. Holders of diploma in pharmaceutical technology can now enrol in a bachelor of pharmacy degree programme to qualify as pharmacists and subsequently specialise in different recognised areas after post-graduate studies.

10. It is said in some quarters that the so-called miti-shamba doctors can treat and heal as much as 75 per cent of the diseases we face. Is there truth in this?

Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

The board has no empirical data to support the claim. Any medical product, including herbal medicine, offered for use in Kenya should undergo stringent procedures which require the submission of a broad range of data and evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness.

The board reviews these data to determine the benefit-risk profile of the product.

 11. As a regulator, does it concern you that the ordinary person perceives a doctor as superior to a pharmacist? What are you doing to make the profession as marketable and as respected as that of doctors?

P Odhiambo, Homa Bay

All professionals in the health sector complement each other rather than compete with one another. Every cadre has a role to play and all work as members of one healthcare team.

Nevertheless, recognising the important roles of pharmacists in this team, the board has developed guidelines for recognition of specialisation in pharmacy.

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