STO probes irregular import of prescription drugs

Pharmacists issue drugs at a pharmacy in Maldives. (File Photo/Sun)

State Trading Organization (STO) confirms the company has launched an internal audit upon identification of a shipment of prescription drugs which were unnecessary to Maldives, and imported into the country by the company in violation of its regulations.

STO’s Managing Director Hussain Amr Mohamed and Chairman Hamid Nasheed Mohamed were summoned for questioning by the State Enterprises Committee of the Parliament last Wednesday evening.

In response to a question posed by Thoddoo MP Hassan Shiyaan, MD Amr said the company had “identified” an issue involving a shipment of unnecessary drugs which were imported into the country in violation of regulations.

“Some drugs which the Maldives does not need were imported. It was imported from outside the system. There’s no evidence of it in the system. We are in the middle of an internal audit. We are investigating it as a serious issue,” said Amr.

Amr said it is unclear whether similar irregularities have taken place in the past.

Managing Director of STO, Hussain Amr Mohamed. (File Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

He did not say when the drug shipment was imported, the specific drugs or its quantity.

The bulk of prescription drugs used in Maldives is imported into the country by STO. The company as established its pharmacies in every residential Maldivian island, but the shortage of drugs available from the island pharmacies is a major concern to citizens.

Speaking to the parliamentary committee, Amr said most of its pharmacies were running at a loss, and that the company was now assessing ways to reduce costs at its pharmacies.

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen previously stated that the office was holding discussions with STO to remedy the issue of drug shortage.

The minister said the issue was particularly challenging, and that the administration planned on establishing a mechanism to effectively manage its shipments of prescription drugs to remedy the issue.

Ameen said the administration planned on major reforms to the regulations for import and issuance of prescription drugs. But that it will take time to implement the reforms.