Personal Finance

Prescription for fake drugs Pain

A Health Ministry employee in an operation to empty shops selling counterfeit drugs. PHOTO |ISSOUF SANOGO |AFP
A Health Ministry employee in an operation to empty shops selling counterfeit drugs. PHOTO |ISSOUF SANOGO | AFP  

Control, regulation and sale of medicines from manufacturing point and for imports through the supply chain to retail pharmacies ought to be more stringent.

Recent media reports highlighting the extent of counterfeit and substandard drugs suggest that more effort needs to be put in place to tackle the problem.

They pose not just an economical loss to patients buying them, but are also a serious health risk for users.

One scenario is that patients will not recover because the drugs they are taking are inactive. Secondly, if the chemical ingredients are poorly formulated they may cause more grievous bodily harm.

The root cause of the problem is greed and lack of good oversight both from consumer bodies and the pharmacists.

As the final point of sale for medicines, retail pharmacy units should be gatekeepers that lock such harmful medicines out of circulation.

However, some are emerging as weak points in the chain of distribution and are even culpable of abetting the sale of counterfeit and substandard medicines.

Similarly, drugs meant to be strictly sold under prescription are obtainable over the counter.

A senior doctor was lamenting how he found a pharmacy selling such drugs to a patient over the counter and admonished them.

Part of the problem is the lack of a robust patient pharmaceutical records keeping. Identifying what batch of drugs you bought at a pharmacy two years ago and who issued them may be an impossible task.

Thus punishing errant practitioners is difficult.

With most of our drugs being of foreign origin, ascertaining the standards and safety for our citizens and particularly for patients taking them is important.

This is why having the ability to track the source of every individual drug sold is important. To this end though, technology is now emerging as a saviour. Bar codes and security QRS features on medicines are slowly being adopted.

However, unlike the West where prescriptions and dispense records are kept by both parties, we lack this.

A legislator’s attempt to introduce a Bill towards tackling this was unfortunately derailed possibly by the same cartels engaged in this unscrupulous distribution practice.

In all this though it was commendable to read last week that the medicine’s safety watchdog has acquired equipment to identify substandard medication on the spot.

Hopefully this will help weed out such medicines before they are sold.