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Counterfeit drugs

Around 35% of the medication sold in the Middle East is fake, compared to just 1% in the US. Kipp examines the threat posed by this $75 billion global trade, and what regional policymakers are doing about it.

March 15, 2010 7:50 by

Regulatory failures

Many countries in the region have Health Ministries, including Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

But because the scope of the counterfeit threat has only recently become fully recognized, many of them lack sufficiently stringent legislation to address the threat.  Add to this a lack of compliance with modern manufacturing standards, and you leave the door open to the supply of ineffective, toxic, or even lethal products.

Civil unrest and poorly functioning government institutions undermine efforts to ensure the safety of a nation’s drug supply.  In the case of a recent counterfeit seizure in Damascus, witnesses reported seeing fake drugs packaged with the Iraqi health ministry emblem, according to press reports.

“International police action against the factories and distribution networks should be as uncompromising as that applied to the pursuit of narcotic smuggling,” says Howard Zucker of the WHO. “People don’t die from carrying a fake handbag or wearing a fake t-shirt. They can die from taking a counterfeit medicine,” he adds.

Research conducted by the WHO suggests that fewer than one in three developing countries have fully functioning drug regulatory authorities.

 

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