Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Counterfeit medicines: another health hurdle

Yesterday, I went to an Anti-Counterfeiting Workshop for Pharmaceutical Products held by the US ASEAN Business Council. Guess what? I found out that in 1995, 60.000 people in Nigeria were inoculated with fake meningitis vaccine. The most extreme was that in 2001, when 192.000 patients in China died after taking counterfeit drugs.

Would you believe this?! It bound on me that this counterfeit drug is a serious matter. Consuming counterfeit drugs would result in sick people end up sicker, wider epidemic spread and prevention failure (in case of fake vaccines), numerous unwanted effects, and in extreme cases, death

Too bad we do not have the exact numbers as counterfeit drugs are not always identified or reported, unless there are casualties involved. But are we gonna wait ‘till someone dies?

Apparently, the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) has taken steps to put an end to the problem. BPOM has made a number approach to tackle this 'obat palsu' matter. They are trying to break the supply chain, conduct national joint operation and investigation (with law enforcement agencies), carry out comprehensive investigation and mopping up what is already in circulation, strengthen the infrastructure, and break the demand chain (increase public awareness).

However, in my opinion, BPOM shouldn’t be the only one taking on the responsibilities (as stated otherwise in Detik.com, 15 January 2007, "Obat Palsu Beredar Luas, Pemerintah Yang Tanggung Jawab"). The legal drug manufacturing companies, wholesalers and retailers, as well as health professionals should also make efforts to put an end to drugs counterfeiting.

The International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (IPMG), for example, has put up a national award for anti counterfeiting journalism. The award is a form of appreciation from the industry for journalists’ efforts in providing beneficial information and increasing public awareness on counterfeit drugs.

Well, the simplest and safest way to combat this problem is to buy medicines in legal, registered pharmacy.

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