Is Africa Profiting from Counterfeit Drugs?
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
For someone with advanced technical know-how and a devious mind, a piece of chalk or some flour or starch can be shaped into a tablet or pill. With the naked eye, it’s almost impossible to tell it’s a copycat. The global counterfeit drug trade, a billion-dollar industry, is thriving in Africa. The markets are flooded with fake and poor-quality drugs, making a trip to the pharmacy seem like a game of Russian roulette. If you pick the wrong box, it could literally mean your death.
About 100,000 deaths a year in Africa are linked to the counterfeit drug trade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency defines counterfeit medicine as “one which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source.” Both branded and generic products are faked. In some parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, more than 30% of the medicines on sale can be fake, notes the organization.
The detection of fakes has become more difficult over the years, notes a 2012 study published by the Lancet, because of “counterfeiters’ increased ability to reproduce holograms and other sophisticated printing techniques.” Some even add active ingredients that pass quality test controls but don’t provide any benefit to the user.
- Health Care