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Rein in cartels behind fake medicines trade

EDITORIAL
By Editorial | October 10th 2021

Kenyans could be buying their way to an early grave. [Courtesy]

The wanton sale of substandard and counterfeit medicines across the country is fast becoming a public health crisis. In what has become a dangerous trend, crooked importers are minting money from fake pharmaceutical products while endangering lives of Kenyans.

Yet again, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has raised the red flag over the sale of fake cough syrups and antibiotics. And last week, the agency’s inspectors impounded drugs valued at Sh2 million being brought into the country via the porous borders. The fakes were reportedly being ferried by people who did not have requisite documentation and could not explain origin of the items.

Not long ago, the board closed 40 unlicensed pharmacies in Nairobi. Similar crackdowns in the counties have led to the arrest of medicine hawkers and quarks trading in restricted medicines in open-air markets.

At this rate, we have every reason to be worried. With fakes still finding their way into the market defying provisions of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, Kenyans could be buying their way to an early grave. From fake beauty products to contraceptives, the risk is untold. In recent weeks, some dealers have marketed dubious substances as Covid-19 medication. The quality and safety challenge is more pronounced on prescription drugs.

It is an open secret that the lucrative pharmaceutical industry, with an annual turnover of more than Sh300 billion, has been infiltrated by cartels and illegal importers who do everything to cheat the system. However, what’s more worrying are claims of government complacency, leading questionable accreditation of practitioners and importation outside the law.

We call on the board and other regulators to be vigilant. Illegal outlets and the shadowy characters behind them should be fished out. Practitioners guilty of poor work ethics should equally be dealt with. Let agencies mandated to regulate the practice harmonised operations to ensure efficiency. Life is sacrosanct and no one should endanger lives at the altar of profits.

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