Experts say regional pharmaceutical counterfeiting on rise
Pharmaceutical counterfeiting has reached higher levels in the Middle East and could even place lives at risk in the region, say experts.
In the past, drug counterfeiting received relatively little attention because it was viewed as a problem affecting mainly the Indian and Chinese markets, yet the problem has spread around the world and is steadily impacting on the lives of people in the Middle East.
Drug counterfeiting ranges from the illegal use of copyrighted commercial drugs, up to the manufacture of fake drugs. The practice has spread in recent months, partly because of increased demand for products like male potency medication.
“The health consequences of counterfeit medicines, many produced in unsanitary conditions with substandard or dangerous chemical components, are very real and often life threatening. They can also lead to drug resistance and can cause loss of trust between patients, doctors, pharmacists and healthcare workers,” said Dr. Ahmed El Hakim, health policy and external affairs director for Pfizer’s Middle East Region.
Executives at Pfizer congratulated the authorities in both the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the moves they have made to combat the problem, and have urged the general public to be more aware of the dangers of fake drugs.
Both the medical industry and the public have been hard-hit by the practice as counterfeiters tend to target common prescription drugs such as antibiotics and painkillers.
Often the fake drugs contain nothing more than baking soda or talcum powder, though sometimes they contain more sinister ingredients such as anti-freeze. In the case of drugs that have effects on heart, or blood pressure medications, the results can prove fatal. There have even been cases of vials of general anaesthetic being filled with distilled water or alcohol.
Incidents of the distribution of unsafe pharmaceutical products around the world are increasing, as there have been many reports involving patients who have unwittingly received and taken counterfeit medicines. Packaging is often slick and convincing as counterfeiters copy bar codes, blister packs and even holograms.
Patients tend to take for granted that the prescription medicines they buy are safe and effective. In some countries, reliable pharmaceutical distribution systems ensure a high degree of patient safety, yet, despite this, incidents of counterfeiting have increased four fold in recent years.
Various factors have enabled criminal counterfeiting activity to burgeon. These include the growing involvement in the drug supply chain by under-regulated wholesalers and repackagers, the proliferation of internet pharmacies, and the movement of imported medicines around the globe.
“Counterfeiting must be eliminated, but as long as there is high demand for pharmaceuticals there will be dishonest people manufacturing and selling fake drugs, putting the lives of our people at risk,” concluded Dr. Ahmed El Hakim.
Men should consult their doctors before changing their medication for any reason, since certain erectile dysfunction drugs belonging to the same class may have different safety ranges. For example, local specialists advise that while Cialis, Snafi and Levitra are contraindicated with prostatic drugs while Viagra can safely be used with prostatic drugs. (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)