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07.12.2009 Health

Help Eradicate Counterfeit Drugs

By Daily Graphic
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Representatives of health workers and drug manufacturers in West Africa have noted that counterfeit drugs constitute a menace to health delivery in the sub-region and called for collaborative efforts at eradicating it.

Counterfeit medicine is said to impede the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the region, undercutting any possibility of West African countries attaining security in the supply of quality medicines both through trade and local production.

Addressing participants at a forum in Accra on the theme: ” Towards an ECOWAS Convention on Access to Quality Medicines”, the president of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (WAPMA), Mazi Sam Ohuanbunwa said with the present level of counterfeit drugs in the sub-region, the person at the greatest risk was the consumer.

He added that the government and other intervening agencies like donors and the pharmaceutical industries were losing huge revenue as a result.

He explained that clinical health professionals and innocent consumers may assume that a medicine was no longer effective prompting a switch, without realising that they were dealing with a counterfeit one.

He said WAPMA was determined that only high quality and affordable medicines were manufactured and distributed throughout the sub-region.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria, Dr Paul B. Orhii, noted that although poverty and social upheavals contributed to the problem of counterfeit medicines,

inadequate financing of the public health sector, weak management systems, lack of accountability and a devastating reduction in the healthcare workforce also contributed greatly in creating a demand and supply gap.

“It is this gap that the drug counterfeiters capitalise on to market their products,” he noted.

He said counterfeiters target drugs that were used in high volume and for treating diseases of public health interest.

“They produce nearly exact replicas of genuine drugs, copying every detail, from the drug to the packaging and labelling.”

According to him, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report estimated that roughly 270 million people on the African continent lacked regular access to even the most essential medicines.

The report also estimated that five to seven percent of world trade amounting to US$ 280 billion was lost to counterfeiting while the Centre for Counterfeit Medicines in Public Health Interest projected that counterfeit drug sale would reach $75 billion dollars in 2010, a 92 per cent increase from 2005.

The forum was under the auspices of IMANI-Ghana, a policy think tank, the MoH of Ghana and Nigeria, the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA), Nigeria and NAFDAC.

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