World Health Organization (WHO) has approved Sierra Leone through the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone (PBSL) to become the 87th member of its Drugs Safety and Monitoring Programme.
The WHO Drug Safety and Monitoring Programme- Pharmacovigilance- is the International Agency responsible for ensuring the protection of public health through Pharmacovigilance and the ad hoc monitoring of all adverse effects caused by the use of drugs and other pharmaceutical products.
Commenting on the WHO approval, Acting Registrar of the Pharmacy Board, Wiltshire Johnson said that “it is indeed a great achievement any regulatory agency could be proud of as this shows that the strides by the Health Ministry through the Pharmacy Board is beginning to bear the expected results to improve health care delivery in Sierra Leone”. The Registrar added that “this drug safety monitoring system has greatly improved the Board’s capacity to monitor and identify counterfeit and substandard drugs” as evidenced by recent capture of drugs amounting to Le 200 million in raids made throughout the country.
In an interview, Chairman of the Board Bassie Turay remarked that “to be granted membership in the WHO Drug Monitoring and Safety Programme means that a country’s drugs and pharmaceuticals regulatory agency must have met all the bench marks set by WHO in monitoring the safety of drugs in the market”.
The requirement of the WHO in this respect the Registrar Johnson maintained “is the attainment of all the bench-marks on Adverse Drug Reaction-(ADR) Monitoring and Reporting set up by WHO’s Uppsala Monitoring Centre” which he reiterated “the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone has recently fulfilled.”
Prior to the approval of the PBSL, a WHO assessment team paid a two-week visit to Sierra Leone in mid August to assess the strength of the Pharmacovigilance system in the country.
During the visit it could be recalled that a three-day workshop was conducted for PBSL staff and other public health Programs of the Ministry in a bid to set up the Pharmacovigilance system in each of these Programs.
Also during the visit and sequel to the workshop, a year Pharmacovigilance action plan was developed to fast track recommendations made by the WHO visiting team and health stakeholders in the country.
The Drug Safety and Monitoring Programme was hosted by the Drug Information and Pharmacovigilance Department (DPID) of the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone; with initial funds provided by the Global Fund Project and contributions from the Healthcare Services Specification Project HSSP, the European Union (EU), Malaria Project and the government of Sierra Leone and was launched in 2006 by the PBSL.
Giving a brief background on the work of the Department, Current Head of the Drug Information and Pharmacovigilance Department, Sahr Gbomor said, “[the Department] does awareness raising on the magnitude of drug safety problems through early detection of adverse drugs reaction in patients, and striving to improve the rational use of medicines by health care professionals and the general public”.
This, he maintained is driven mainly by PBSL’s objective to “reduce medicine morbidity and mortality.”
He also mentioned that between 2007and 2008, the DPID has been able to train over 380 health care providers of different cadres on Pharmacovigilance. He also revealed that jingles encouraging the reporting of suspected counterfeit drugs and ADRs to the PBSL are daily been aired on the radio and public address system mounted on PBSL vehicles