GHANA CRACKS DOWN ON UNLICENSED DRUG SALES

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Ghana's Pharmacy Council was warned against unauthorised drug retail outlets, such as on-the-street sales, claiming that such drugs posed a serious danger to public health. The group cites illicit traders' lack of formal pharmacological training.

Also, the quality of medicines dispensed illegally -- which comprise both OTC and prescription treatments -- cannot be determined. Even if the drugs are genuine, many have deteriorated due to poor storage practices. The government has recently authorised a crackdown on unlicensed sellers in the capital Accra, although such efforts are under-resourced.

Meanwhile, the WHO has called on the Ghanaian government to impose minimum wages and working standards for medical practitioners in the country, to help avert the growing problem of emigration in the sector. Recent statistics indicate that 12,365 health professionals left Ghana between 1993 and 2002, predominately for Western countries where pay and living standards are higher.

The migration of trained personnel threatens the stability of healthcare systems all over Africa. However, if these workers returned and applied the skills learnt abroad, then poor countries could reap substantial benefits, claim industry sources.