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Pharmacists say new law will allow quacks to import medicines

Sunday November 4 2018


The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Act now makes it mandatory for national and county public hospitals  to obtain drugs and medical equipment from Kemsa. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The enactment of the health laws bill has elicited sharp reactions from professionals in the industry.

The 2018 Health Laws (Amendment) Bill was passed by the National Assembly on October 28 and is awaiting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s assent.

The professionals say they have problems with amendments to the 2013 Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Act and Pharmacy and Poisons Act.


The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Act now makes it mandatory for national and county public hospitals  to obtain drugs and medical equipment from Kemsa.

However, it is the amendment that allows hospitals to compare  drug prices with the private suppliers that has raised concern among professionals.


“A national or county public hospital shall, in the procurement and distribution of drugs and medical supplies, obtain them ... from the authority unless (a) such drugs and medical supplies are for the time being not available at the authority; or (b) the prices of such drugs and medical supplies as provided by the authority exceed the prices offered by other commercial entities,” the amendment reads.


This, health professionals say, will promote the sale of drugs merely on the strength of price and not quality.

Kemsa gets its stock from suppliers and it will be an important player in universal healthcare, which is part of Mr Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.

One of those not happy with the changes is Dr Thuranika Kaugiria, a public health advocate.


“It is a great idea to have public hospitals first seek medicine from Kemsa but there seems to be no standards set, judging from the way the amendment is worded,” Dr Kaugiria said.

“The quality of medicine is not emphasised. That will mean unscrupulous suppliers may stock cheap drugs of poor quality so that Kemsa may lose out when competing with other players.”

He said the amended bill lacks checks and balances.


Closely connected to the Kemsa bill is the amendment to the Pharmacy and Poisons Act.

Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya president Loius Machogu said the amendments would water down the war against quacks and counterfeit medicines.

“The changes will open a window for profiteers to import drugs through unqualified people,” Dr Machogu said.

The 2018 Health Laws Amendment Bill was sponsored by Majority Leader Aden Duale.


It will do away with the levels of practice that confer the highest responsibility to qualified personnel, Dr Machogu said.

“The changes will kill value, career progression, training and competence in the profession of pharmacy,” he added.

PSK said the bill will allow importation of medicines by unqualified individuals “who are ambiguously referred to as pharmacy practitioners in the changes”.

The pharmacists organisation added that the bill will compromise competence and training of professionals.


“Medicines are complex, expensive and potentially risky products to be left to people with no training but masquerading as experts in a field they little know about,” Dr Machogu said.

He told Kenyans to brace themselves for low quality medicines “that will soon be dumped in our market”.

“This is a scheme by corrupt businesspeople who want to enrich themselves quickly by importing substandard drugs,” the pharmacist added.


He said the bill will water down efforts by the society to weed out counterfeits and quacks “even as the government fails to recruit the more than 400 pharmacists who graduate from universities every year”.

“While the society is fighting for quality, others are pulling us down and rewarding those who lease their licences to quacks to start importing medicines,” Dr Machogu said.

He added that the changes put diploma and degree in pharmacy at the same level of recognition.


They also lower the entry level of practice of pharmacy in Kenya to diploma and lower the highest level of responsibility in pharmaceutical care to diploma level.

“They propose that technicians and pharmacists be registered in one roll as pharmaceutical practitioners — a term not recognised anywhere else in the world,” Dr Machogu said.


He said the bill also deals a blow to pharmacovigilance which is the practice of monitoring the effects of medical drugs after they have been licensed for use, especially in order to identify and evaluate previously unreported adverse reactions.

He said the amendments jeopardize the careers of Kenyan pharmacy students who went abroad to study Degree in Pharmacy and Specialization in pharmacy.