Charge dismissed against pharmaceutical supplier accused of selling fake HIV testing kits

Davendra Rampersaud

The charge brought against a pharmaceutical supplier who was accused of selling fake HIV testing kits to the Health Ministry was today dismissed.

Davendra Rampersaud, the former area manager for Caribbean Medical Supplies, was on trial before Magistrate Zamilla Ally-Seepaul at the Leonora Magistrate’s Courts.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge which stated that on January 16, 2020, he sold and supplied 400 units of Uni-Gold HIV Test Kits, with misleading representation, to the Materials Management Unit, in contravention of the Food and Drugs Act, Cap 34:03-part V section 18 (1) of 1971.

The court upheld the no-case submissions by the defendant’s lawyer, agreeing that the prosecution failed to prove the essential elements of the offence.

It was also found that the prosecution failed to establish that the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter and that they failed to lead sufficient evidence to show that the defendant imported the test kits.

Following the discovery of the fake devices, they were seized by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD). Caribbean Medical Supplies had previously denied knowingly supplying expired goods and had also claimed to have thoroughly vetted their Kenyan supplier.

According to news reports out of Kenya News Agency k24tv, three businessmen – Erick Mwangi, Jones Olouch, and Robert Njoya – were charged in the Milimani Law Court with selling expired and fake HIV kits to consumers in Kenya and abroad.

The news report also indicated that prosecutors revealed that the trio allegedly stole HIV test kits and exported them to Guyana. According to the report, Mwangi was charged separately with exporting 400 packets of counterfeit Uni-Gold HIV test kits to Guyana on December 30, 2019, using the Jomo Kenyatta Airport.

These alleged test kits found their way to Guyana when Caribbean Medical Supplies Inc reportedly sold them to what was then the Ministry of Public Health. The presence of the fake kits was uncovered when their Irish manufacturer, Trinity Biotech, wrote to the Government.

In its correspondence, the company had revealed that counterfeit boxes of the Uni-Gold HIV test kit were created, complete with fake expiry dates, and the expired kits were then repackaged in said boxes. Trinity Biotech had pointed out that only Trinidad-based Transcontinental Medical Products Limited was the authorised distributors of the testing kits.

In the aftermath of the scandal, the World Health Organisation had issued an alert naming Guyana and Caribbean Medical Supplies and reporting confirmed cases of fake HIV testing kits. The WHO had revealed that through its Global Surveillance and Monitoring System it had been informed of the distribution of some 8240 fake HIV rapid diagnostic tests kits circulating in Kenya.

Back in 2017, Caribbean Medical Supplies was flagged in the 2016 Auditor General report for having $7.6 million worth of outstanding deliveries in September 2017.

It was pointed out in the report that the Ministry kept $167 million worth of cheques (including the $7.6 million for Caribbean Medical Supplies) rather than refunding them to the Consolidated Fund.