Health alarm: Alert issued over fake Augmentin in market

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 00:00 |
Drugs. Photo/Courtesy

Anne Dembah-Aringo  

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, the focus and attention of innovative pharmaceutical companies has been an accelerated approach to discover vaccines and therapies that will be the only long-term solution to ending this pandemic.

The race against time is on and they are working collaboratively and around the clock to deliver safe and effective vaccines to the public.

AT Pfizer, we believe science will ultimately find a solution for humanity, but society will also be faced with a grave danger of illicit trade.

While many of us work to find solutions to this crisis, to share legitimate information and encourage responsible behaviours to limit the spread of the virus, there are those in society who would use our collective fears to spread misinformation and profit unscrupulously through illicit trade such as counterfeit medicines. 

We can already see signs of this in Covid-19 related medical products, including testing kits and personal protective equipment.

Currently this is spreading to medicines being used to treat conditions related to the virus as we await the long-term solutions therapies or vaccine.

For governments and stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry, the need to tackle this menace has never been more urgent and with the scale of the current pandemic, illicit trade in pharmaceutical products could lead to another public health crisis if not appropriately addressed.

According to the Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products Report published in March by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the value of global trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals was valued at $4.4 billion (Sh440 billion) in 2016.

This represents 0.84 per cent of total worldwide imports in pharmaceutical products and will most likely increase post Covid-19.

Counterfeit and sub-standard medicines pose a huge risk to patients’ health. From failure to treat diseases to causing unexpected adverse effects, the consequences of taking illegitimate medical products cannot be understated.

To put this into perspective, estimates show that between 72,000 and 169,000 children may die unnecessarily from pneumonia every year after receiving counterfeit drugs, and that fake anti-malarial medication may be responsible for an additional 116,000 deaths,  according to WHO 2017 statistics.

It is, therefore, clear that the infiltration of counterfeits into the market during this period would exacerbate a situation that is already dire by causing unnecessary deaths.

For Kenya to address and manage the Covid-19 pandemic comprehensively, stakeholders must step up efforts in curbing illicit trade to reduce the incidences and keep the population safe.

Finally, illicit trade places a heavy cost on governments and citizens due to increased strains on health care systems forced to grapple with diseases which would have otherwise been eradicated by legitimate products.

It is time to initiate dialogue between the industry and the government to strengthen legislation and policy as well as enhance enforcement to address this global scourge once and for all. —The writer is Country Manager,  Pfizer Laboratories Ltd

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