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Kenya at risk from unregulated drugs

By Frankline Sunday | Published Fri, July 7th 2017 at 00:00, Updated July 7th 2017 at 08:43 GMT +3
Dr Vivian Rakuomi of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board yesterday during the release of a study on the medicines sold in Kenya. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenyans could be taking stale or counterfeit medicines, a study has revealed.

The research that the Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (Kapi) and the University of Nairobi’s School of Pharmacy released yesterday indicated that up to eight per cent of medicines bought over the counter in pharmacies are unregulated.

This means that consumers could be taking drugs that have not been tested and cleared by the regulators, therefore worsening the risk for patients.

“This was a baseline survey that focused on nine popular medicine brands, which now gives us a more concise picture of the market-wide challenge than we had previously,” said the Kapi chairperson, Anastasia Nyalita.

The study that covered 543 products and 326 retail outlets in the major stores across the country found that Nairobi and Nakuru were the most affected by the proliferation of unregulated medicines.

“These products enter the country through unofficial channels, with high blood pressure medication being the worst affected. We found that 38 per cent of the products in our samples come from unofficial channels,” said Joel Lehmann, co-founder of medical research firm, Infospective, which was contracted to conduct the study.

Besides the fact that the medicines put the lives of patients at risk, Kenya could be losing millions of shillings in uncollected revenue each year as distributors evade paying key levies.

“The sample we tested, for example, revealed that the Kenya Revenue Authority, lost up to Sh5 million from the nine products in 2016 alone, which implies the losses are very significant if you look at the implications across the whole country and across the variety of products in the market,” said Mr Lehmann.

The pharmaceutical industry has been trying to contain unregulated medicines from reaching consumers.

Report pharmacies

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board said it has stepped up surveillance to curb the proliferation of unregulated medicine but urged consumers to report pharmacies that retail such products to assist authorities to conduct investigations.

“We conduct routine surveillance and monitoring of all the products that come into the country and through the value chain, and where we have found retailers to have violated regulatory procedures we can and have issued recalls,” said Vivian Rakuomi, an official from the board.

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