SA experiencing an influx of fake medication

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Erectile dysfunction drugs‚ painkillers and weight loss pills are among the most counterfeited pharmaceuticals available in South Africa.

The Times reports that, according to Mohamed Khader‚ of specialist intellectual property firm Spoor & Fisher‚ speaking ahead of World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, for the past five years the country has experienced an influx of fake medication‚ mainly from China. Khader‚ who works closely with the police and the South African Revenue Services’ customs and excise division‚ said the fake drug market posed huge dangers for consumers because they were unaware they were buying counterfeit products.

Fake drugs‚ according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)‚ have become a global problem‚ and no country is immune to the scourge. It is estimated to be worth $200bn annually. “South Africa has a very large informal market‚ where these fakes are sold. Very rarely will you find these counterfeits in the formal sector‚ like at your registered pharmacies. Because of the informal trade in SA‚ there’s always a demand and because of the demand there will always be a supply‚” said Khader.

Similar to fake clothing labels that dominated the market about 20 years ago‚ consumers were not “necessarily aware that products they purchased were counterfeit say from flea markets. The general consensus amongst consumers was that they were getting a better deal than they would at formal stores”. “They have not comprehended that there are actually pharmaceuticals out there that are not genuine.”

Khader said in the report that erectile dysfunction drugs‚ painkillers‚ weight loss medication‚ antibiotics and psychiatric drugs are among most counterfeited pharmaceuticals available on the market.

According to the WHO‚ falsified medication “may contain no active ingredient‚ the wrong active ingredient or the wrong amount of the correct active ingredient”. “They are also found to commonly contain corn starch‚ potato starch or chalk.” Some could be toxic in nature and are often “produced in very poor and unhygienic conditions by unqualified personnel‚ and contain unknown impurities and are sometimes contaminated with bacteria,” the WHO warned.

Khader said in the report that South Africa had “good laws in place to enforce against counterfeiters”. “Raids and educating border control authorities about possible counterfeits are part of the pharmaceutical brands key strategies.” However‚ he pointed out that the global statistic for containers being checked by customs officials is only 2% to 5% at any point of entry‚ making it a challenge for authorities to eradicate the problem.

The Times report

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