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Friday, June 14, 2024

TASKFORCE ESTABLISHED TO INVESTIGATE DRUG DIVERSION; FORMER HEALTH MINISTER JALLAH REFUTES CLAIMS

Date:

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, former Minister of Health, and several others might be feeling uneasy following the formation of a National Health Taskforce to investigate allegations of drug diversion.

On Tuesday, 21 May 2024, Liberia’s current Health Minister, Dr. Louis M. Kpoto, explained the significance of the task force during a press conference held at the Health Ministry.

The task force was constituted after a 2023 assessment by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) indicated that most pharmacies in the country were allegedly selling stolen medicine. The USAID reported this scandal in Monrovia on 15 April 2024, alleging that medicines provided by donors were being stolen and sold in local pharmacies.

USAID Mission Director Mr. Jim Wright stated that the assessment discovered about 90% of pharmacies were selling medicine that had been donated to Liberia. Wright emphasized that due to this theft, medicine is only available to patients with enough money to buy them, exacerbating healthcare disparities.

The task force established to probe this scandal includes representatives from the National Health Workers Union of Liberia, the Independent Health Taskforce of Liberia, the Minister of Health as Ex-officio, and the Chief Pharmacist of Liberia. Additional members include the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, Liberia Medicine and Health Product Regulatory Authority, Liberia Pharmacy Board, Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency, and the Ministry of Justice.

Dr. Davis Sumo, chairman of the Liberia Medicine and Health Products Regulatory Authority’s Board of Directors, chairs the task force.

In a swift response to Wright’s assertion, former Health Minister Dr. Wilhemina Jallah termed the statement unrealistic. Dr. Jallah added that despite reports of stolen medical supplies, the Ministry launched an investigation that allegedly proved no medicines were stolen.

However, Dr. Kpoto emphasized that the new task force aims to ensure a thorough and inclusive investigation into drug diversion following donations to the Ministry by donors and the government. He stated that the investigation would adopt a holistic approach to addressing the systemic challenges that plague the health sector.

The formation of this task force marks a significant step in Liberia’s efforts to curb the illegal sale of donated medicines and restore integrity and trust in the country’s healthcare system. The outcome of this investigation will be closely monitored, as it holds the potential to bring about much-needed reforms and accountability within the sector.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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