Kampala — The National Drug Authority in Uganda has in recent years been overwhelmed by the amount of counterfeit drugs in the market that have endangered lives.
According to Ms. Kate Kikule, the Head of Drug Inspectorate Services at NDA, the fake drugs mainly from China and India are becoming difficult to monitor because of technological advancement.
"Counterfeits are endangering the lives of our patients. In our market alone, about 20-30% of drugs are fake, it's even much more when it comes to Malaria drugs.
"It is very hard for patients to identify counterfeits from the genuine drugs because at times their (counterfeits) packaging is even better," Kikule said.
She was speaking during the handover of counterfeit detecting machines to the NDA by Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical company and SURE, a USAID funded program at the authority's head office in Kampala recently.
A survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2007 estimated that 20,000 people lose their lives every year globally due to consumption of fake medicines, especially malaria pills.
The machines, called Truscan each valued at $50,000 will help the NDA curb the influx of fake drugs in Uganda as it quickly analyzes a substance in question and provides an immediate decision on its validity within 30 seconds.
According to Mr. Gordon Sematiko, the Executive Secretary NDA, because Ugandans easily trust brands, counterfeiters had taken advantage to imitate these brands.
"These people (Counterfeiters) are making lots of money for selling nothing knowing that our people trust brands. This is why we have consolidated our efforts with our counterparts in the region and signed a harmonization pact," he said.
He added, "It's because of this that many of our people are always saying that they do not trust the drugs in our market. Since these machines are portable, they'll be placed at entry points and also random checks will made."
He also added that effective December 31, 2012, all drugs with loose parts will be banned except those meant for hospital use only. Drugs with loose parts are those that are mostly sold in tins and will not be allowed to be sold on any counter or pharmacy.
Pfizer also donated the machines to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Kenya.