Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Ghanaian Pharmacist

Ghana is likely to be hit by collateral deaths due to failure to put in place measures to curb the price gouging (price hikes) that has not only hit foodstuffs but pharmaceutical products due to COVID -19.

The collateral deaths, although will not be recorded as COVID-19 deaths, would be caused by COVID-19 related corruption.

Speaking on the Corruption Watch show on Adom FM Friday, Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Ghanaian Pharmacist, who doubles as a Centre for Democratic Development fellow in Public Health, disclosed that, the price gouging happening around the world and particularly in Ghana could result in collateral deaths aside the COVID-19 casualties.

According to him, although Ghana has recorded marginally low deaths from COVID -19, corrupt practices during the pandemic might result in collateral deaths if measures are not immediately put in place to control pricing.

He said, price gouging of pharmaceutical products that is currently happening can prevent sick but vulnerable people from being able to purchase medicines that they would have been able to buy previously and die from lack of treatment.

He added that people with underlining conditions such as asthma, hypertension and diabetes among others are most vulnerable during this period because they would be discouraged from attending review to avoid coming into contact with crowd to avoid getting infected.

This, he said, results in them depending more on direct visits to pharmacies to stock up their usual medications. But, due to price hikes, the patients may not be able to buy the medications.

This, he said, will certainly lead to complications and death.

These, he said, are the reasons the Consumer Market Authority in the UK initiated measures to stop price gouging the moment demand for paracetamol resulted in shortages and the price of paracetamol quickly jumped from £0.99 – £1.20 per pack of 32 paracetamol to £8 – £12.99.

The Consumer Market Authority took action against some pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies at the General Pharmaceutical Council over the increment of some of their products by 500-1,000%.

“These pharmacies could lose their practice license if found culpable,” Mr Sarpong added.

Another measure he says is helping curb the price gouging in the UK is naming and shaming of institutions found to be gouging on social media.

According to Mr Sarpong, price gouging during a pandemic is global but each country must develop its own mechanism to curb it to avoid the quest to illicitly enrich individual pockets.

 “Although state officials might indulge in corrupt practices through procurement of medical supplies, individuals, particularly, in the supply chain might take advantage of closure of the borders which will cause limited supply to gouge prices of drugs like anti-hypertensive which are not even related to COVID-19.

“The problem is, corruption in this case is not just limited to government entities but also down to the citizens, because if you previously purchase a product at GH¢1 and sell at GHc1.50 with a profit margin of 50 pesewas but have started selling the same product at GH¢150.00 because of the pandemic, that is a corrupt practice and that is profiteering. So let’s tackle corruption in its broader sense during this pandemic,” he said.

One significant thing that has happened since the outbreak entered the shores of Ghana has been extreme price gouging of goods, particularly foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products.

Prices of foodstuff as basic as gari increased from GH¢6 per ‘olonka’ to GH¢25.00 and prices of hand sanitisers increased from GH¢3.00 to GH¢10.0 and GH¢12.00 to GH¢50.00 and in some extreme cases GH¢ 150.00.

Mary Awelana Addah , Programmes Manager, Ghana Integrity Initiative, who also appeared on the show together with Lawyer Martin Kpebu expressed worry about how although naming and shaming is helping the fight in the UK, that strategy has failed to be effective in the fight against corruption in Ghana.

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