13 January 2013

Uganda: Authority Denies Importing Fake Drugs

Photo: Médecins Sans Frontierès
A young child is given a malaria rapid test at a hospital in Bossangoa.

Kampala — Uganda's National Drug Authority (NDA) has denied importing fake medicines for malaria from India and China.

A report published in the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom indicated that Uganda is one of the countries that imported fake malaria medicines from India and China.

The Guardian newspaper of December 23, 2012 reported that counterfeit medicine from Asia threatens lives in Africa and international health experts are warning of a mounting health crisis in parts of Africa because of an influx of counterfeit medicine that is playing havoc with the treatment of diseases such as malaria.

The report attributed the problem to the porous borders in Africa coupled with indifferent oversight in China that are combining to turn the continent and its pressing health problems into a free-for-all for maverick manufacturers, some of whom are producing pills with no active ingredients at all.

The article cited experts and NGO reports as saying that up to a third of anti-malarial drugs in Uganda and Tanzania might be fake or substandard, and the majority of them were manufactured in China and India. The drugs look identical to real ones, and can only be distinguished with lab testing.

The fake medications have led to deaths, prolonged illness and increased drug resistance in parts of east Africa, the article said.

NDA Executive Secretary Gordon Sematiko however told East African Business Week that the authority follows these issues on a daily basis both at home and in India and China both being the biggest exporters to not only Uganda but the entire world.

"I am right now in India meeting with all exporters and Uganda is one of the active countries on the fight against substandard drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) realized and recognized this danger to the world and has set up a member state mechanism on substandard, spurious, falsely labeled counterfeit medical products.

He pointed out that the first meeting attended by 66 countries took place from November 19-21 last year in Argentina during which the member states agreed to share info at all stages on possible sources any identified culprits in manufacturing storage distribution and use.

"The fight is expensive and cannot be handled by a single state or regulatory authority," he said adding that China, India and Brazil are major hosts of many manufacturing facilities of both active pharmaceutical ingredients agreed to cooperate with importers.

He explained that the authority is equipping the new quality control laboratory to meet new challenges to be able to test 100% all drugs entering Uganda.

"We have also acquired modern equipment called truscan for quick testing at ports of entry and in the field for quality with all the support from the Uganda Parliament".

He further explained that in December last year the authority with members of Parliamentary committee on health visited India to exploit ways of legally protecting Ugandans and they are yet to make their recommendations.

"Let Ugandans be assured that we are doing everything possible to protect them from bad drugs," he said.

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