By Vinod Guptan
The fight against counterfeit products, especially medicines, faces an uphill task. Most of the challenges involve complex and unfair trade practices that either infringe on individual company prospects or precipitate adverse effects on investments and by extension public safety.
Other challenges emanate from a weak and inefficient regulatory framework that provide loopholes for unscrupulous persons keen on taking advantage of public demand for medicines to peddle counterfeited substances purely for purposes of making monetary gain.
Without a vigilant and well co-ordinated strategy to raise such concerns with the authorities and to collaborate in the search for amicable solutions, the vice could lead to collapse of certain industries and cause chaos in the market place.
We must be watchful to defeat the forces that conspire against a moral business environment for the benefit of all the stakeholders. The Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) provides the linkage between the industry and other stakeholders in the fight against counterfeit products, particularly medicines.
KAPI seeks to cultivate a well co-ordinated mechanism to address these challenges through collaboration with policy makers in order to aid our healthcare system to keep pace with the dynamism in pharmaceutical inventions.
According to WHO guidelines, counterfeit medicines, have been deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and or source.
These fall in various categories as follows:
• Products with correct ingredients but incorrectly labeled.
•Products with no active ingredients
•Products with insufficient active ingredients
• Products with fake packaging.
Counterfeiters target popular and fast moving medicines or products of high value and manufacture fake versions of the same for sale.
According to research, 10 per cent of all available medicines in the world are counterfeited. It is further estimated that up to 25 per cent of medicines in use in developing countries are counterfeits.
There are no specific statistics for Kenya but the reality is that it is a major problem requiring urgent attention.
Counterfeits have potential to kill consumers. Patients may also not respond as quickly as a desired with the genuine medicines.
The drugs may as well contain impure or poisonous substances that may cause direct harm to patients. Counterfeits impact negatively on health systems and may lead to erosion of confidence in healthcare professionals and authorities.
Where doctors and nurses unknowingly administer drugs that harm patients ratherthan provide relief to them, the public may lose confidence with them altogether.
Furthermore, patients and consumers lose value for money to procure medicines of unknown reliability and safety.
We are committed to continually fight against counterfeits as key stakeholders in this sector and believe that this is the responsibility of every Kenyan of goodwill.
It is, therefore, vital that the public supports efforts by government to stamp out the vice through the Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2010 that created the Anti-Counterfeits Agency (ACA). ACA has brought new impetus to the fight against counterfeits and in collaboration with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), which regulates all medicines in Kenya, we are hopeful that the problem will be minimised. Illegal trade practices are a major contributor to the presence of counterfeited medicines in the country.