In developed countries, where technology is highly used, it is possible to monitor activities in the health sector through the use of social security cards and medical cards which must be presented for verification before medicines are sold in pharmacies.
This is not quite the case with most African countries because people can be seen selling medicines (tablets, vaccines and pills) illegally in the streets as hawkers, in private shops and stores. Most of these vendors neither have licenses nor have received training in medical sciences. However, SRNs, MLTs and medical Doctors have the licenses to open Pharmacies, Health Centres, Clinics and Hospitals but they too have been reported to abuse the service.
SOURCES OF THE MEDICINES, HOW THEY ARE CIRCULATED, SOLD AND ADMINISTERED
Conventional medicines accepted by African states are legally imported, controlled and evaluated by the stated institutions in charge before distribution to the different health institutions. Most of those that end up in the streets are smuggled into Africa mainly from China, France, Thailand, Bangladesh and India, some from other African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Cameroon.
In some ports, officials intimidate medicine importers and exporters, confiscate some and also supply them to illegal vendors. Most African governments do not promote the consumption of recognized home-made medicines which forces the producers to secretly sell to street vendors.
It is regrettable that contrabands and illicit drugs such as tramadol, cocaine, marijuana, contraceptives and prescribed medicines are also sold along with legal medicines in the streets. Due to the recurrent treatment of some common diseases such as malaria, simple cold, cough, Africans are tempted to buy and use the medicines themselves thus promoting street sales.
In some day and boarding schools, health practitioners in charge of students often smuggle illicit drugs amidst prescribed medication and sell to students.
Some medical practitioners smuggle and administer medicines in their neighbourhoods secretly for profit. It is argued that they help in situations where governments do not react on time in case of an emergency calls but medical practitioners who operate in secret do and save lives.
Africa amongst other less developed continents receives medical aid quite often such as mosquito nets, vaccinations and other medicines meant for free distribution. Unfortunately, those in charge end up doing away with some to sell for profit.
WAYS TO LIMIT IT
It requires the close collaboration of patients, pharmacies, medicine producers, medical practitioners, hospital officials, port officials, government stakeholders and institutions to eliminate this practice.
- Governments in collaboration with other medical institutions should sensitize the public about the dangers of street medication in schools, churches, social gatherings or using radio/TV adverts, newspapers and flyers for medical education. They should promote the use of services of Medical Doctors, give the true medical history, follow medical advice, avoid street medication and avoid using other people’s prescriptions.
- Port authorities should strictly control the importation and exportation of medicines making sure that verification tests are carried out by chemists/pharmacologists.
- State officials in charge should supervise the activities all medical institutions by delegating agents to do regular checks.
- Hospital authorities and pharmacies should be stricter with the supervision of the entry, distribution and exit of medicines by doing proper security checks and taking stock. They should give clear medical advice and provide information on the after-effects of medications to patients and danger of street medicines.
- Governments in collaboration with municipal council authorities should do background checks on those who are already operating registered medicine businesses to be sure of their professionally abilities, authenticity and shutdown unauthorized medicine stores.
- Governments and authorities of different medial institutions should monitor medicines with high demand/rate of consumption so as to watch against the possibility of an abuse.
- Governments should prohibit people who are legally allowed to use pills from carrying them around in bags and purses but instead in their prescribed packaging materials. This is to avoid the situation where they can be misused, shared or mistaken for some other medicine.
- African states should create information systems on which all medical activities and patients’ information can be uploaded on daily basis and cards provided for patients. Through the cards, verifications can be done by licensed medical practitioners by sliding the cards through magnetic strip readers before medicines are sold.
There are laws and ethics binding the use and the selling of medicines which clearly prohibit them to be sold or administered out of or without medical assistance from medical institutions or practitioners.
Those caught or suspected for violating these rules and are guilty, could face punishment or sanctions ranging from fines to jail terms.
Street medicines have been noted in medical reports to cause many health complications, some leading to death. African governments actually have measures put in place to solve this issue but they are not well implemented.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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