Hundreds of workers of Tobinco Pharmaceuticals Limited across the country, yesterday took its three-month fight with the Food and Drug Authority (FDA), over its failure to register its products to a “heavenly level” by holding prayers across the country, for a divine intervention out of the company’s current problems.
Yesterday’s prayer session follows, a siege at the North Dzorwulu office of the FDA by people numbering about 30 on Wednesday, to plead with officials to reverse the banned slapped on some of the company’s products identified as substandard for the treatment of diseases, including malaria.
A police team was nearly called in by the FDA to have them arrested over their illegal gathering.
Tobinco has meanwhile, declared today a prayer and fasting day against FDA and its boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni.
Following the discovery that an anti-malaria medicine, G-Sunate Suppositories, manufactured by Bliss GVS Pharma, imported and distributed by Tobinco, the FDA directed the company to do the right thing by submitting its dossiers and medicines for verification and certification, but this has proved difficult for the company.
Instead, it has resorted to court actions, using influential politicians, seeking Parliamentary interventions, the use of preachers, media campaigns, among other things to have the FDA wave its directives.
Yesterday’s divine prayer session, follows a press conference held on Monday, during which Tobinco called on President John Mahama, to intervene in the issue, by asking FDA to shirk its responsibilities.
It also follows revelations that Tobinco, had wanted the FDA to give its preferential treatment by giving it a provisional approval license to sell its unregistered medicines.
An Accra-based Citi FM reports that “the management of the company and its workers believe the current crisis the company is going through could be spiritual, hence organizing a prayer session to drive the devil out”.
The workers, clad in red at the prayer grounds asked God, to drive away any evil spirit seeking the downfall of the company.
The spokesperson of the workers, Daniel Kweku, in an interview revealed that “their decision to embark on the prayer is because the issue at hand is beyond what any human eye can see.”
Similar prayer sessions were reportedly held in the Volta and the Ashanti regions respectively.
Felix Agbanyo in the Volta region, who spoke to the Sector Manager, Mad. Linda Adoma, says “the gathering is really special for Tobinco staff, as well as, the stakeholders.”
She indicated that because all efforts to curb the situation have been fruitless, “we thought it wise that we consult our maker.”
The Pharmaceutical Company has been accused by the regulator of importing fake drugs into the country and failing to register others. Warehouses belonging to Tobinco have been closed down by the FDA in the protracted feud.
The company in response has accused the Authority of witch-hunting them and has called on the president to look into the conduct of the Stephen Opuni led Authority.
The former Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Prof. Stephen Adei also waded into the controversy, accusing the FDA of not doing a good job.
He wondered why officials of the Pharmaceutical Company, will be walking free if it were the case that they imported fake drugs into the country.
But Communications Consultant to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ametor Quamyne, on Wednesday slammed critics of the FDA accusing them of unnecessarily hounding the Authority.
He said it was only in Ghana that people are hounded for doing their statutory jobs.
He was speaking on Asempa FM’s Ekosii-sen programme on the ongoing feud between Tobinco Pharmaceuticals and the FDA.
Discussing the matter on Asempa FM on Wednesday, Ametor Quarmyne said the FDA must be saved the flak.
He said Tobinco has admitted importing a drug that has not been tested on humans and must be held responsible for their action.
“Should we wait for people to die before the Authority is held responsible”, he questioned.
A former boss of the FDA, Emmanuel Boakye Agyarko, also cautioned against a continued public discussion on the matter, indicating that the issue is currently before Parliament and a resolution is in the offing.
The Public Relations Officer of FDA, James Lartey expressed surprise at criticisms levelled against the Authority by the former Rector of GIMPA, Prof. Stephen Adei and challenged him to mention names of companies dealing in fake drugs, so the Authority will take action.
According to Mr. Lartey, he is surprised by the comments made by Prof Stephen Adei, because the Authority has a statutory duty to ensure that products manufactured or imported are safe for consumption and that is exactly what it is doing.
He said he found it interesting that Prof Adei, would say that there are other individuals and companies dealing in fake drugs and yet the Authority has turned a blind eye on them and is harassing Tobinco.
He appealed to Prof Adei to, as a matter of civic responsibility, name other individuals or company dealing in fake drugs so the Authority will act accordingly.
He said the FDA cannot be everywhere all the time.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health has stepped into the ongoing wrangling between the FDA and some drug importing companies.
A statement signed by the Health Committee’s Chairman, Joseph Yieleh Chireh and issued yesterday said it is undertaking enquiry into the matter.
It, therefore, recommend to all parties to pull a break on the ongoing media war – between pharmaceutical companies, Ghana Health Service and Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana on one hand, and the Food and Drugs Authority on the other.
It described the media war as “unnecessary and unhelpful”, and hoped putting a stop to it will create a congenial atmosphere for a peaceful resolution of the issues.
The Committee also charged the security agencies working with the FDA to exercise “tact and discreetness” in the discharge of their duties.