A branch of Gishen Pharmacy, an Ethiopian pharmacy chain implicated in the recent Guardian investigative report for dispensing performance enhancing drugs over-the-counter without requiring prescription, was ordered to cease operations this week by the Addis Ababa City Administration Food, Medicine and Healthcare Administration & Control Authority after an investigation into the allegation conducted in the course of the past three weeks.
The ban was imposed only on one of the branches of the popular pharmacy chain—specifically the one located around the national stadium—and is said to stay in effect for the coming three months.
The decision came after a joint investigation by the national Anti-Doping Agency and the drug Authority which found out that Gishen has sold the performance enhancing drug without prescription, vindicating the joint investigative report that shocked the Ethiopian Athletics sector to its cores.
The report which was released few weeks ago the Guardian actually claimed that the specific pharmacy branch has dispensed controlled, performance enhancing drug called EPO, a name usually associated with doping in sports and with the latest wave of doping scandal that swept across the global athletics community.
The joint investigation by the Guardian and the German broadcaster ARD claimed that a journalist and a cameraman who concealed their identities have managed to procure EPO from the same pharmacy with being asked to produce prescription. As result, the report drew a conclusion that performance enhancing drugs are sold over-the-counter and without prescription in Ethiopia.
“We have proved that the specific branch of Gishen pharmacy which is located around Addis Ababa National Stadium has sold prohibited drugs for customers without prescription,” Getachew Weretay, director general of the authority, told The Reporter.
According to Getachew, the authority has been strict on pharmacies and that they had been given directions many times not to dispense drugs without prescriptions. “Similarly, we try to update the list of prohibited drugs every year and inform pharmacies to exercise care when they sell such drugs,” he added.
Besides the three-month ban the authority has also decided to suspend the license of one, Yibiltal Admasu, who was the pharmacy manager on duty when Guardian’s journalists allegedly bought the controlled drug few weeks ago, for not less than six months.
After Guardian’s news report, Gishen was quick to downplay the report at a press conference held in monarch hotel. The report singled out Gishen and claimed that the pharmacy is engaged in selling drugs like EPO without prescription.
“EPO is the only enzyme that can be used to regulate blood cells and cannot be sold without prescription,” argued Amakilch Lulu, general manager of the Pharmacy, downplaying the allegations.
Furthermore, she defended her pharmacist claiming that they were not aware of any blood-boosting attributes of EPO. As far as the authority is concerned nobody is tolerated if founding dispensing drugs with the proper prescription.
The incident has also initiated the national Anti-Doping Agency and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Management and Control Authority to organize a training session for over 200 medical professionals regarding the role of pharmacies and how they should execute their responsibilities.
Doping is illegal in Ethiopia under the Article 526 of the Criminal Code and is punishable by a prison term which can go as high as five.
Meanwhile, the controversial report has also claimed that some of Ethiopia’s well known athletes were caught on camera while admitting that they use performance enhancing drugs routinely; including for international competitions. Thus far, the news portal is yet to release the footage.
On the other hand, authorities of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation including world-renowned Haile Gebresilassie expressed their disappointment over the report and more specifically the timing of the release which coincided with the London World Athletics Championship.