9 August 2017

Uganda: Counterfeit Cancer Drugs Sold in Uganda

Photo: Emmanuel Ainebyoona/Daily Monitor
A sample of the counterfeit cancer drugs.

The National Drug Authority has issued an alert over two counterfeit cancer drugs being sold on the Ugandan market after impounding some of them from a hawker near the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

The hawker was arrested near UCI on July 17 .

In statement, NDA spokesman, Mr Frederick Ssekyana said Sutent and Avastin drugs have been on the Ugandan market for some time.

"The falsified products were being sold around by unscrupulous dealer near various cancer treatment centres such as the Uganda Cancer Institute," Mr Ssekyana stated. "NDA informs health service providers and the public that it has impounded some unregistered and counterfeit medicines; Sutent (sunitinib malate) tablets packed in plastic jar on the market that bears the following features: Sutent 12.5mg, Batch no. NC 1060 Expiry date: 02/2019."

He said the unscrupulous vendor, identified as Fred Niyonzima was allegedly fleecing unsuspecting patients by selling one packet of the drugs at Shs3 million thus fleecing unsuspecting patients.

According to the statement, the branding of the fake drug is faulty because the dealers claim it is manufactured in Sweden by Astrazeneca yet genuine Sutent drugs are manufactured by a Pfizer.

Mr Ssekyana said the drugs are supplied only as hard gelatin capsules as opposed to the bluish-grey tablets being sold by unscrupulous individuals around UCI.

He advised cancer patients, and their caretakers to be vigilant and always seek attention from health centres.

"All pharmacies, health providers and the public are advised to exercise caution and vigilance while handling medicines and to report any illegal suppliers of medicine to NDA," Mr Ssekyana said in the statement, adding that anyone found in possession of the products would be prosecuted.

Ms Donna Asiimwe Kusemererwa, the NDA executive secretary said the vendor smuggled the drugs into the country from China.

"We have submitted his case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions after we completed our investigations," Ms Kusemererwa.

Dr Jackson Orem, the UCI Director said on Wednesday that he is aware about the counterfeit drugs adding that the prescriptions by their doctors normally indicate the potent drugs.

"When patients are told to buy the drugs from the private pharmacies, our doctors normally write proper names of these drugs," Dr Orem said, adding that the prescriptions must be clear.

However, he said even people who buy injectable drugs, take them to UCI doctors for mixing where counterfeits can be detected.

He, however, said they cannot control what patients buy from the market.

Another counterfeit anti-cancer drug being sold is Avastin. It is being sold in a plastic jar, according to Mr Ssekyana.

He said the genuine Avastin is registered and manufactured by Roche based in Germany and Switzerland. It is manufactured as an injection for intravenous use.

The fake Avastin is being presented as bluish-grey tablets reportedly manufactured in Sweden by AstraZeneca 2014 Astrazeneca and Turbuhaler under trademarks of Astrazeneca Group of Companies.

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