The International Police Organisation (Interpol), estimates that about 30 per cent of medicines imported into Africa including Ghana are either counterfeit or substandard.
Giving startling revelations about the drug situation in Ghana at a seminar organised by the FDB in Accra, Mr John Odame-Darkwa, deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), said drugs commonly counterfeited included antibiotics, anti-malarials, anti-diabetics and aphrodisiacs.
Tuesday's seminar was organised by the FDB for members of the Association of Representatives of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industries (AREPI) on anti-counterfeiting and substandard pharmaceuticals.
Mr Darkwa said counterfeit and substandard drugs posed serious threats as it means therapeutic failure, adverse reaction, development of complications and sometimes death to patients.
The situation also decreases confidence in the country’s health system.
Additionally, he said a number of local herbal products were found to have been prepared with dangerous substances such as brake fluid, sawn dust and turpentine.
Mr Odame-Darkwa said producers of such herbal preparations had been faking registration numbers of the board to woo unsuspecting consumers.
Mr Odame-Darkwa said the business of drug counterfeiting was booming because companies involved were reaping high profits.
He noted that the country’s laws on deterrent penalties for such culprits were too flexible. Section 14 of the Food and Drugs Law, PNDC Law 305b states that any person who labels, packages, sells or advertises any product in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive as regards its character, constitution,value, potency, quality, composition, merits or safety commits an offence and when convicted will serve not more than two years.
Mr Odame-Darkwa said the surge in counterfeit medicines also endangered public health safety and posed a threat to global security since it could be a potential source of funding for terrorism.
The situation, according to him, was worsened by trade liberalisation policies which did not limit the number of brands or dealers for a particular product, multiple sourcing and parallel importations.
Other factors, he said, were the existence of illicit market for medicines breaching supply chain, weak surveillance on the country’s border posts coupled with poor oversight in neighbouring countries.
“Counterfeit medicines thrive on the existence of illicit markets and the lack of consumer awareness on the dangers associated with the use of counterfeit medicines. For this reason, there is a need for strong public awareness creation to sensitise consumers on the dangers of counterfeit medicinal products in order to minimise their patronage” he said.
To that end, Mr Odame-Darkwa stated that FDB was collaborating with international and regional agencies and security agencies to discharge its mandate of ensuring safe and good quality medicines on the Ghanaian market.
A representative of AREPI, Mr William Ofori, said there was an urgent need for strong advocacy with policy makers, consumer associations, opinion leaders and the media in educating the public on the menace of counterfeit medicines and the need to buy medicines from licensed sources.
He also underscored the need for the public to report any incidence of counterfeit medicine to the appropriate regulatory agency for necessary punitive measures to be taken.
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