Indian pharma sues Kenya agent over fake drugs


Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. Cipla says it fears its brand could be damaged should any consumer be affected by the counterfeit ARV drugs. PHOTO | FILE

An Indian pharmaceutical company has sued a Kenyan agent for allegedly importing counterfeit drugs after terminating a contract that the two companies had.

Cipla Limited claims in court documents that its former Kenyan agent, Lords Healthcare, has been importing counterfeit drugs using the Indian firm’s drug registration certificates.

Cipla now wants the High Court to bar Lords Healthcare from importing medicine using its registration certificates, and from trading in any drug covered by the Indian firm’s certificates.

The Indian firm dropped Lords Healthcare in May after declining to renew the agency agreement it had with the supplier.

“Despite termination of the agency agreement, Cipla has noted that the medicines now being imported and sold in Kenya bear specific markings showing that they are being marketed in Kenya by Lords Healthcare,” Cipla said.

Justice Isaac Lenaola on Tuesday directed Cipla to serve Lords Healthcare and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and return to court for further directions.

The pharmaceutical company has expressed fears that the source and chemical composition of the drugs allegedly imported by Lords Healthcare is unknown and could be dangerous to consumers.

It also fears that the damage to the Cipla brand could be disastrous should any consumer be affected by the counterfeit medicine, some of which are anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/Aids patients.

“There is a clear and present danger to the Kenyan public by the importation and sale of drugs whose origin is unknown. The damage to Cipla’s brand should anyone be adversely affected by these unproved illegal drugs would be immense,” the pharmaceutical firm added.

The pharmaceutical company also claims that despite owning the trademarks to the Cipla trade name, Lords Healthcare has registered and is using the same in its letterheads. It has threatened to take separate legal action over the alleged use of its name.

The PPB has been enjoined in the suit for allegedly failing to take any action to stop the importation of counterfeit drugs under Cipla’s drug registration certificates.

Cipla reckons that Lords Healthcare has issued it with a demand letter in which it claims PPB has seized its goods based on the complaints it had raised to the drugs regulator regarding the importation of counterfeit drugs.

Nevin Bradford, Cipla’s regional general manager, alleges that the demand letter is baseless, as a survey it claims to have done in pharmacies and stores in several towns revealed that the counterfeit goods are still on sale.

“As on the date of filing this petition (December 2), on the basis of inquiries conducted in about 30 pharmacies and wholesalers located in Nairobi, Eldoret and Embu, the illegal products are still being sold. Therefore any action purportedly taken by the PPB is ineffective,” said Mr Bradford.

PPB, he added, has not communicated any action it has taken on Lords Healthcare despite sending the regulator letters requesting for the information.

Mr Bradford says his firm has discovered seven different counterfeit drugs which have been imported under its certificates, but their names have been changed.

The counterfeit drugs have “Taj Pharmaceuticals” listed as the manufacturers on the illegal products’ packaging, Cipla says.

Cipla has also asked the High Court to compel Lords Healthcare to quarantine and recall any of the drugs it has under the Indian pharmaceutical’s registration certificates.