Sunday, 13 March 2016

Why Combating Fake Medicines in Africa Is a Must

Counterfeit drugs have become a major worldwide issue. These types of drugs compromise the current pharmaceutical industry in a way that is dangerous for providers and patients alike. Fake medicine often has altered potencies, which can lead to unsafe dosages and medication therapies that are simply dangerous and ineffective.

This issue is particularly prominent in Africa, due to the lack of medical infrastructure. Here is a little bit more about what counterfeit drugs are, why they are being produced, and was is being done to combat this problem.

Counterfeit Drugs

Counterfeit drugs are being produced in large quantities in Africa. Last year alone, in Ghana, 90 percent of the drug oxytocin was found to be substandard and counterfeit. The majority of these substandard drugs were found in hospital and clinic environments. A good number of these drugs were produced by Chinese manufacturers. The major problem with these drugs is that they cause patient outcomes to become unpredictable, or downright negative.

For example, counterfeit or poorly produced drugs were the cause of 100,000 deaths of children who had consumed them for protection against malaria. Because the active ingredients were not present, the drugs simply did not work. Seventy percent of medications in Africa are imported. The counterfeiting process is similar to the process for other types of manufactured products, with one key difference: the drugs are manufactured without using the appropriate levels of potent materials, and are therefore ineffective.

Why Are They Being Produced

The obvious reason why these drugs are being produced is that they make money, and at a lower cost than full-potency drugs. Because there are not very many African countries that produce the drugs on native soil, this creates an opportunity for foreign companies to gain market share in an untapped area.

Combatting Fake Drugs

Making sure these drugs are regulated is an essential effort on the part of African regulatory agencies. These agencies have beef up their efforts to ensure these drugs meet certain standards. Further, the United States Pharmacopeial Convention’s (USP) Center for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training (CePAT) in Accra, Ghana, worked to expand its quality control testing and training capacities. The group opened a new pharmaceutical microbiology laboratory to engage in quality control efforts.

According to the World Health Organization, medical products should meet certain safety, quality and effectiveness standards. The dishonest distribution of these types of products is prohibited by the World Health Organization, yet illegal activity still occurs. Furthermore, these substandard products are dangerous for consumers, which is what motivated the WHO to prohibit their distribution. In fact, the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) was created in 2006 to reduce the manufacturing, distribution and consumption of counterfeit drugs.

Counterfeit drugs are a huge problem in Africa. These drugs cause negative health outcomes and create major gaps in the healthcare delivery system. Combatting efforts of substandard manufacturers is necessary in order to sustain the quality of the delivery system and protect the health of the African public.

Megan Nichols is a science writer who specializes in health and wellness topics. She also enjoys writing about other science fields on her blog. When she isn’t writing, Megan enjoys hiking, and stargazing.

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