Editorial: Respond urgently to locked up essential drugs 

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Ghana’s case count for the COVID-19 pandemic infection has scaled the dreaded 10,000 mark, yet we understand that essential drugs meant for the treatment of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients are locked up at the ports simply because of challenges faced by the newly introduced Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS), designed by UNIPASS.

Adding to the woes, pharmaceutical industry players are getting worried about the possible expiration of these drugs, and when finally cleared, could also result in higher prices due to demurrages and other charges as a result of late clearance.

The Chamber of Pharmacy and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana have sent out distress calls to the Ministry of Health and Port Authorities to assist in clearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Vitamin C drugs and some other medications which have been locked up at the port but urgently needed for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

The virtual manual process has resulted in delays in the clearing of pharmaceutical imports, which has come with the risk of high cost in demurrage.

This development is also likely to increase the cost of drugs on the market when they are eventually released and this should be a source of worry for everyone, particularly as the country’s case count continues to escalate.

Government, as a matter of urgency, must help to resolve the situation because the need for essential drugs is more pressing at his moment when the pandemic is wreaking havoc on countries, economies and livelihoods.

The Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) bottlenecks is taking a toll on the pharmaceutical industry which we are all relying on to bring the much-needed relief. If the current situation persists, it could erode the benefits of the financial and other forms of cushioning the industry received from government.

The frustrations of the slow and unwieldy processes caused by the system rather than the importers has also placed our members at the mercy of the same system, with the prospects of further cost in penalties of various kinds, a statement from the Chamber of Pharmacy, Ghana and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana indicates.

“Vitamin C is almost in short supply now; we need a lot of Vitamin C but now they are locked up. PPE are also locked up”, the pharmacists lamented.

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