Health Minister Informs Lawmakers of ‘Plans to Compensate AKI Victims’

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Gambia’s Health Minister Dr. Ahmad Lamin Samateh, told Members of the National Assembly that plans are afoot to provide compensation to the victims of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). Minister Samateh said this at the National Assembly on Tuesday 28th March 2023, while responding to the report of the Select Committee on Health on the AKI incident, which allegedly claimed the lives of over 66 children. The Committee in its report recommended for Government to consider compensation to families of the deceased and surviving children. This they say should include free medical care for the surviving children with AKI until they obtain full cure and recovery.

“The surviving children are currently being followed up and they are receiving free medical care. Government is reviewing the reports and waiting for the pending report of the inquiry that has been set up. Once these reports are all reviewed, the issue of compensation will be addressed,” Health Minister Samateh responded. The Committee also recommended that as matter urgency, the Ministry of Health must consider re-visiting the Medicines and Related Products Act, to give clear and direct powers to the Medicine Control Agency (MCA), to regulate and impose sanctions on other sectors without having to seek approval from the Ministry. Health Minister Samateh said MCA currently has these powers and does not need to consult the Ministry. He said the review process has begun by a law firm that is looking at the different laws. The report of the Committee also recommended for Government to consider pursuing legal action against Maiden Pharmaceuticals for exporting contaminated drugs to the Gambia, under the Atlantic brand name.

“The Justice Ministry is already looking at the reports for advice on the way forward,” Minister Samateh said. The Committee also recommended for Government to strengthen MCA’s capacity with the needed financial aid, infrastructure and human resources for more effective and efficient implementation of its regulatory functions. However, Minister Samateh said this will be difficult to ensure because the current budget for 2023 does not allow recruitment of additional staff and the operational budget has not been increased for 2023.

On MCA’s assurance of compliance from private and public sectors to regulatory requirements of Medicines and Related Products Act, 2014, Health Minister Samateh said this is being strengthened and efforts will continue with support government and partners. He however said that this has to go in line with the strengthening of MCA’s capacity.

On MCA’s strengthening of supervision at ports of entry, Minister Samateh told Members of the Assembly that the commencement of the process of reviewing the laws is a new opportunity of looking at the issue of every pharmacy having a supervising pharmacist. He said MCA has engaged in discussions with the pharmaceutical businesses and importers which is ongoing, and has started screening and testing some products which are sampled after importation, by using mini-labs.

On MCA and the Health Ministry assurance that all Medicines brought into the country are registered and listed, Health Minister Saamateh said registration of all medicines is a continuous work in progress and MCA will strengthen this work. On the Ministry’s continuation to sensitize on the risks of self meditation and the consumption of Medicines in the unregulated market, Dr. Samaateh said “this will be strengthened by the Health Promotion Unit of the Ministry.” He said the current acquisition of a film van through World Bank support will enhance this as the van travels across the country disseminating the message.