By: Sarjo Brito
The Ministry of Health has moved to recall all Maiden Pharmaceutical products in The Gambia pending the outcome of an investigation. The move came following the WHO’s announcement that the recent AKI deaths in the Gambia may be linked to contaminated cough and cold syrups manufactured by, Maiden Pharma, an Indian pharmaceutical company.
The Ministry has since embarked on a drug recall exercise which was only limited to the four syrups while other Maiden Pharmaceutical products were still being sold. Now, the Ministry of Health said they are embarking on a second phase of the drug recall exercise, which will include all Maiden Pharma products, pending the outcome of investigations.
Health Promotion Director Modou Njie told this medium that the Health Ministry cannot wait for investigations to conclude before they could act.
“Since 4 syrups were confirmed to be contaminated with chemicals that are known to cause AKI, and these are products manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, the Ministry of Health decided to suspend and recall all their products until laboratory confirmatory tests are available to determine their safety. This is in the right direction, and our decisions are guided by scientific evidence. Furthermore, we cannot wait for an investigation to be concluded before we act. A lot of cases and deaths were prevented as a result of our swift action. Once investigations showed that the products are safe, then we’ll lift the suspension.’’
Modou Njie further stated that more medicine samples from Maiden Pharmaceuticals and other drug manufacturers have been sent abroad for testing, adding that the Ministry will leave no stone unturned to get to the root cause of the issue.
Human Rights activist Madi Jobarteh said the move by the Ministry of Health to suspend all products from Maiden Pharmaceuticals is long overdue, adding that the suspension should have been extended to all their products immediately after their syrups were suspected of causing AKI.
“The Ministry’s response to this crisis is very lacklustre which is indeed frightening! It is not just about collecting syrups, but the Minister should have invoked powers in the Public Health Act to undertake stronger measures of transparency and accountability. This mess cannot be approached as if it’s normal.’’
The number of AKI deaths has since risen to 80 after the WHO revelations. Meanwhile, Gambians are continuing to demand answers from Gambian officials as many of them attribute the mass deaths to the country’s medicines and pharmaceutical industry which has been left unregulated.