Peddlers of medicine are doing brisk business in some markets and lorry parks in Accra, selling medicines that even chemical sellers by law are not permitted to dispense.
The Daily Graphic has observed that the activity is prevalent in the Kaneshie, Agbobloshie, Makola, Kantamanto and Okaishie markets and some lorry parks and streets in the capital, including the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange area and the Tema Station.
The peddlers sell medicines such as Tramadol, Cytotec, Dexacorten, painkillers, steroids, multivitamins, aphrodisiacs, butt enlargement pills, among others, that are packaged in transparent plastic bags and carried around in baskets.
Some of the drugs, such as Tramadol, Dexacorten and Cytotec, fall under the Food and Drugs Authority’s (FDA’s) category of medicines that are to be sold on prescription.
Aside from that, the peddling of medicine contravenes Section 110 of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857).
While accurate statistics could not be easily obtained on the number of persons who engaged in the practice, in putting together this report, about 50 of them were spotted within the Kantamanto, Kaneshie and the Makola markets in a day.
While some peddlers hawked the drugs in the market, others were stationed at vantage points where their patrons visited and sometimes consulted them.
Some traders, mostly market women, were seen buying medicines from them. In some instances, the peddlers dispensed drugs to their customers after the buyers had told them their conditions.
The situation was less pervasive in the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange area, Tema Station and the 37 Hospital pedestrian lanes, compared to the numbers spotted in the markets.
In a chat with one of the peddlers, who gave his name only as Opoku, he said due to the periodic swoops carried out by the police, many of his colleagues preferred to sell in the markets to secure themselves against arrest.
In a random interview with some traders at the Kaneshie Market who said they regularly patronised the services of the peddlers, they indicated that the medicines dispensed by the peddlers were cheaper, compared to what was sold in the licensed medical shops.
“I normally buy from them because their drugs are cheaper. The same drug could cost you twice the amount at a drug store,” Agnes Abban, a petty trader, claimed.
While interacting with Bismark Cudjoe, one of the peddlers stationed at the Kantamanto Market, he dispensed an anti-malaria drug, Malabase, to a woman who complained of headache, feverishness and cold.
When the medicine was later mentioned to the Deputy Registrar in charge of Professional Development at the Pharmacy Council, Mr Albert Wiredu Arkoh, he said Malabase was to be taken by pregnant women to protect them against malaria.
He expressed shock that the medicine, which he said was to be sold “strictly” on prescription, had found its way onto the open market.
While admitting that the activities of drug peddlers constituted a public health danger, Mr Arkoh said the council did not have adequate personnel to tackle the problem.
He said the problem had escalated in recent times due to the council’s inability to broaden supervision in the pharmaceutical industry.
“In the whole of the Greater Accra Region we have only two officers in charge of enforcement.
Meanwhile, about 60 per cent of all pharmaceutical facilities in the country are located in Accra.
We are doing our best to clean the system, but we are highly incapacitated,” Mr Arkoh complained.
When contacted, the Head of Public Affairs at the FDA, Mr James Lartey, expressed the authority’s readiness to collaborate with the Pharmacy Council to clamp down on the activities of drug peddlers.
He was, however, quick to add that the sensitisation of the public against the purchase of drugs from unapproved persons was essential to fighting the menace.
“We should concentrate more on public education because when there is no demand for the products by the public, there will not be any supply,” he said.