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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

Fighting back

In 2008, the UAE government announced plans to construct a multi-million dollar analysis facility in Sharjah, to verify the safety and authenticity of pharmaceuticals.  Additionally, UAE in 2009 announced it would halt the practice of re-exportation of medicinal drugs from its ports, the Khaleej Times reported, quoting a senior health official.

Regional stakeholders in the Middle East met last year as the UAE’s Ministry of Health hosted the Regional Conference on Fighting Counterfeit Medicines.  Attendees met to discuss enhanced, practical policies to reduce levels of fake medicines across the region.

In Saudi Arabia, the newly formed Saudi Food and Drug Authority is actively charged with combating the threat of counterfeit drugs.  “We advise customs and the police about what to specifically look for, and we’ll have SFDA personnel operating at border controls and working with the customs officials there,” explained Ibrahim Alshowaier, Consultant, SFDA.

New technologies are emerging designed to aid in the recognition of counterfeit drug products.  Sophisticated holographic emblems, similar to the counterfeit deterrents embedded in paper currencies, have been added to drug labels.  Radio-frequency chips, unique chemical additives, and counterfeit-resistant packaging have all been promoted in an effort to better differentiate between authentic and fake products.


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