Unregulated sale of drugs worries experts


The Pharmacies and Medicines Board (PMB) has closed 80 drug stores in the last quarter of 2016 over illegal keeping and dispensing of medicines.

The Board says there were 377 drug stores in 2015 and the number reduced to 297 in 2016 after the board’s investigations following the tips it got from the public through its Tips off Anonymous programme.

This development comes at a time there is an influx of sex boosting concoctions and products on the market and sale of prescription drugs over the counter.


Malawi News has observed that sex boosters are in form of herbal powder or roots or factory processed. Consumers are buying the drugs without doctor’s prescription and most of them do not have an idea of what they are consuming or what the ‘medicine’ will do to their bodies.

Health activists have questioned why this is happening at the nose of the Board which is supposed to regulate this trade. They have called for more of such closures of all pharmacies that are not complying.

President of Pharmaceuticals Association of Malawi (Phasom), Foster Enock, said sexual boosting medicines are used in the patients (especially men) with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. When they are taken properly at prescribed dose they are safe.


The general public should be aware that if medicines are not properly handled they can cause serious harm.

“People should also avoid buying medicines from unlicensed dealers. Access of herbal products should be in consultation with the pharmacist and or a doctor. Use of Viagra as “sex boosting mechanism” should only be limited to all that have medical problem other than abusing it,” he said.

On the issue of selling antibiotics without doctor’s prescriptions, Enock said the law says antibiotics should only be accessed using prescriptions.

“The prescriber should only consider giving antibiotics after lab tests. Irrational prescription and irrational access to antibiotics and other antibacterial leads to resistance cases which jeopardises health system in the world,” he said.

Enock said misuse of antibiotics will lead to resistance cases where by the germs that would be treatable by available medicines will become notorious and will not be treated, hence unnecessary deaths.

Executive Director for Health and Rights Education Programme (HREP), Maziko Matemba said unregulated sale of sex booster drugs and prescription drugs over the counter is a big challenge in Malawi.

“This problem is that the public does not have information on their rights as well as the danger of taking drugs anyhow,” he said.

Matemba noted that the PMB may be failing to control this due to lack of capacity in terms of staff and resources since they rarely do inspections or arrest the culprits.

“All this is at a cost since lives are in danger out there. People think it is a small issue because those that have been harmed with these concoctions or self-prescribed drugs don’t talk about their experiences in the open. People have probably died but issues have not been pursued, “he said.

Acting registrar for PMB, Mphatso Kawaye said the Board makes an assessment of the health claims that the dealer claims that the product is going to do and ensures that they are not misleading.

“Please note that the primary concern of the Board as a regulator is not efficacy but safety to ensure that the public is not exposed to toxic substances.

“However, considering misleading efficacy (health) claims can have profound effects in priority disease areas such as HIV, we only register those whose safety profile is ascertained and whose health claims will not impact on priority public health areas,” he said.

Kawaye added that for herbal products that are not registered and are making exaggerated healthy claims, the Board conducts investigative surveillance activities by collecting samples of the products and run tests for conventional pharmaceutical products (for erectile dysfunction or Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

“In one or two cases the Board has ever found traces of conventional drugs (like Sildenafil for erectile dysfunction or sexual performance) in products being sold as herbal medicines on the market,” he said.

Kawaye however said it is unfortunate that some registered pharmacies and drug stores are selling antibiotics without prescription saying, “the conditions of licenses for these businesses specifies which category of medicines they can dispense and what level of health personnel should run the business.

Kawaye urged the public to report any suspicious dealings in medicines (from Illegal handling of government drugs to illegal dispensing practices such as the dispensing of antibiotics) to the Board through the Tips Anonymous line (Airtel, TNM Access 847, MTL: 8000 0847).

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