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Drugs dumped in wrong places

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MKANDAWIRE — We are not happy

By Patience Lunda

Due to careless disposal of some expired drugs and medical supplies in some areas in Mzuzu City residents risk being exposed to serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance as the drugs become poisonous.

It is not known who is responsible for the dumping of the medical supplies and the drugs but the development has been noted in the city’s several townships such as Jombo, Masasa, Chibavi and Luwinga.

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But Mzuzu City Council (MCC) has now instituted investigations to get to the bottom of the matter.

In Mapale, an area in the Central Business District, one of the stretches has been turned into a haven for expired drugs and medical supplies.

When we visited the place on Tuesday, expired medicines such as Rectal suppositories, Paracetamol, Clamoxin oral suspension, Amoxicillin capsules, Diclofenac Sodium Tablets, Erythromycin, Fluconazole and anti-malaria drugs, among others, were found all over.

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One of the residents, Dumisani Mkandawire, raised a red flag, saying unsuspecting schoolchildren usually pick up the medicines without knowing their status.

“We are not happy with the improper disposal of the expired drugs because this exposes our children to health problems. I am saying this because they use this route when going to school, so they end up picking and using them. So we want authorities to come in fast and address the issue,” Mkandawire said.

In an interview, MCC Public Relations Officer, McDonald Gondwe said the council will start engaging pharmacy owners in the city to know where they dump their expired medicines and medical supplies.

Gondwe added that most business owners in the city do not have mini refuse banks and called on the city’s residents to report when they see individuals dumping medical wastes willy-nilly.

“We have already started looking into the issue so that those involved in this malpractice can be brought to book because this is slowly becoming a big problem as we have now received reports from four townships on the same,” he said.

Pharmacy and Medicines Regulatory Authority (PMRA) Public Relations Officer, Joseph Josiah, said the regulator has not yet received any report of the issue but indicated they would institute an independent investigation.

Josiah disclosed that section 129 of the Pharmacy and Medicines Regulatory Act calls for proper dumping of pharmaceutical wastes and that all medical practitioners are aware of this.

Those found guilty of flouting the provisions face serious penalties, Josiah said.

“Medicines become poisonous when they expire, which is why the World Health Organisation [WHO] recommends that expired pharmaceuticals need to be disposed of well. We will investigate the issue despite not being notified about it,” he said.

Environmentalist Godfrey Mfiti concurred with Josiah, adding that the Environmental Management Act of 2017 also calls for proper disposal of such wastes as they have the potential to harm the environment, people and animals.

On his part, Mzimba North District Health Promotions Officer, Lovemore Kawayi, said the development is worrisome because it is a health hazard.

Kawayi then said government designated places where expired medical supplies are supposed to be incinerated.

“It is a threat especially to children because they may end up picking the expired drugs and later use them. It is an issue the council needs to look into swiftly,” he said.

According to the WHO, of the total amount of waste generated by healthcare activities, 15 percent is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, toxic or radioactive.

The United Nations health agency further state that measures to ensure the safe and environmentally sound management of healthcare wastes can prevent adverse health and environmental impacts from such waste.

On reasons behind failure to properly manage medical wastes, WHO observes that there is lack of awareness about the health hazards related to such waste, inadequate training in proper waste management, absence of waste management and disposal systems, insufficient financial and human resources and that many countries either do not have appropriate regulations or do not enforce them.

Pharmaceutical Society of Malawi (PSM) President, William Mpute, promised that the body will be part of the solution to the problem of expired medicines disposal by sending a message to all pharmacies, drug stores and clinic owners to follow the set guidelines on disposal.

Mpute further said PSM will work towards having private public partnerships with district councils in accessing pharma-grade incinerators.

“We have the responsibility to serve and protect the public and we shouldn’t put the same public at risk of far worse conditions due to failure to dispose of medicines and we will be working with other stakeholders on this issue,” he said.

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