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ABG Department of Health confiscate medicines, warns against illegal sales

The ABG Department of Health has issued a stern warning to the public and retail outlets in North, Central and South Bougainville on the illegal sale of medicines.

ABG Health Secretary Clement Totavun, issued this warning in a media conference yesterday in Buka, following his team’s raid of retail outlets in Arawa Town earlier this week, where a large quantity of government-procured medicines were confiscated.  

Secretary Totavun said a written warning was circulated to the public last week warning against the illegal sale of medicines in the streets and in retail shops.

“I want to reiterate again to our public that medicines are not like other commercial commodities where we sell in the shops. Medicines can only be sold and managed by healthcare personnel or trained pharmacists who can manage, distribute and administer this medicine to patients who need it,” Secretary Totovun emphasized.

“We want to protect our population from negative effects of indiscriminate distribution and sale of medicine on the streets.”

“Firstly, people will develop antibiotic resistance. Second, some people can start to abuse these medicine and these are drugs that are prescription drugs. It’s not those drugs that are sold over the counter. Prescription medicine must be prescribed by a medical officer or a health care worker and must be administered by a trained health care worker or a pharmacist.”

“Abuse of medicine can cause death, that is why we are putting out this public notice so that our people are aware of the dangers that they are exposing themselves to when taking or buying medicine on the streets.”

According to the National Medicines and Cosmetics Act 1999 Section 6: subsection 2:'a person who with effect from the appointed day, imports, manufactures, sells, supplies, or otherwise deals with a medicinal product without a license is guilty of an offence'. The penalty is a fine not exceeding K5000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.

Responding to some negative reactions on social media regarding the notice, Secretary Totavun clarified that shortage of medicine is not an isolated issue for Bougainville, rather it is a nationwide issue.

“The ABG Department of Health does not buy medicine. The National Department of Health buys medicine on behalf of the twenty provinces including Bougainville. We only distribute to the health facilities when we receive the medicine from the Area Medical store in Rabaul so we are distributing the medicine based on the quantity that is given to us by the Area Medical Store,” Mr Totavun explained.

However, Secretary Totavun explained that where there are shortages, his Department uses the ABG allocated recurrent funds to his Department to buy medicine and fill in the gaps.

“As the Department of the ABG, we are doing all we can to address the shortage while we wait for the routine supplies from the National Department of Health.”

“We submitted a budget to the ABG and we have been given a budget to procure medicine this year and as soon as accounts open, we will procure medicine. We are not procuring the total requirement of all facilities but we will procure the common drugs that are used every day.”

Meantime, the routine inspections and checks on the illegal sale of medicine across Bougainville will continue, led by the ABG Department of Health in partnership with agencies such as the urban town councils and the Bougainville Police Service.

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