Red flag raised over rise in fake drug deaths

Some of the drugs sold in Kenya are fake . This leads to death of many unsuspecting patients. Picture :David Mbewa
Some of the drugs sold in Kenya are fake . This leads to death of many unsuspecting patients. Picture :David Mbewa

Over 100,000 people die daily as a result of consuming counterfeit medicine.

According to the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) “fake drugs kill more people than terrorism”.

Speaking recently during the operational workshop on combating counterfeiting and piracy, consumer health and safety at a Mombasa hotel, IRACM Director of Studies, Wilfrid Roge observed that most of unsuspecting consumers fall for the death trap of counterfeit medicine since “it is very difficult to recognize illicit or fake medicine”.

While observing that China and India are among the leading manufacturers of fake medicine, Roge also mentioned that there are companies manufacturing drugs inside Africa adding that the effects of the menace are both health-related and social-economic as the world incurs losses running into billions of dollars every year due to fake medicine.

Posed Roge: “About $75 billion of revenue is lost every year due to fake medicine. Can you imagine that we have fake medicine coming not only from China and India but also from Africa?”

He noted: “We have manufacturers in Africa making fake medicines, we have fake vaccines and we also have fake veterinary products.”

Roge said they intend to train customs officers in the region on how to conduct proper risk analysis and prosecute those found culpable as a way of addressing the issue and cutting the supply chain of fake drugs.

“As the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines we carry out operations with other stakeholders to protect the health of patients and public at large. We want to ensure that patients have the right and legitimate medicine as opposed to fake ones. You see there is no serious problem when one puts on a fake T-shirt but with fake medicine, a patient can die and we estimate that 100,000 people die every year because of fake medicine. It is worse than terrorism and people hardly talk about it,” reiterated Roge.

While noting that some types of medicines are legitimate in other countries like in China and India, he said the same have no market authorisation in Africa.

“In countries like Niger we already have reports of many babies dying because of fake vaccines,” he said adding the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines needs the support of the health authorities, customs, World Customs Organisation (WCO), private sector and other stakeholders to combat the challenge and save lives.

According to Sandra Wens, a World Customs Organisation expert in combating counterfeiting and piracy, anti-malarials are among the most counterfeited medicines in Africa.

“Probably this is due to high demand of these kinds of medicines in the African continent and, therefore, there is a ready market for the drugs. You will find that the fake medicines are manufactured in different parts of the world and sold in Africa,” said Wen. She added: “In areas like Europe there is no malaria and so no market for anti-malarial drugs.”

However, Dr Peter Kiptoo, Head of Pharmacy and Poisons Board’s Ports of Entry Division noted that besides anti-malarial, lifestyle drugs such Viagra and other illegally manufactured supplements are among the most counterfeited drugs in the country as a result of growing demand.

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