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Ghana Combating Counterfeit Drugs

Ghana is combating the sale of counterfeit and expired pharmaceuticals.

A megaphone atop a truck parked in Accra's main market warns customers that some "unscrupulous persons" are copying Dr. Alhaji Yakubu's medicine to cure all diseases. So make sure you get the original product, the hawker advises, in its new packaging.

In Ghana, even those selling fake drugs are vulnerable to counterfeiting.

Dr. Elias Sory is the director general of the Ghana Health Service. He says the common use of counterfeit or sub-standard pharmaceuticals means many patients wait too long to seek proper medical attention.

"As a practitioner I saw it when I was practicing as a medical officer in the district that certain drugs were brought in into the system even in the normal delivery system which were of low quality and it even becomes worse with the drug peddlers who are going about villages killing people and that is why sometimes we get disease states that come to us when they are already too late or we get resistance to certain drugs," Dr. Sory states.

A salesman says his Moringa Capsule cures high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney disease, premature menopause, cardiovascular disease, and infertility.

Dr. Alex Dodoo is the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana and a researcher at the University Of Ghana Medical School. He says the combination of sub-standard products on the market includes both deliberately counterfeited drugs and legitimately-produced medicines that have either expired or spoiled due to improper storage.

"Fake and counterfeited products usually involve products that are either high volume or high cost," Dr. Dodoo said. "So you look mostly at anti-Malarials currently the Artemisinine combination therapy. In addition to that there are products for erectile dysfunction and because these are often sold at pubs and places where people try to get them without prescription they go for high value, they go for high cost."

So the pharmaceutical society along with the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drugs Board, and Customs are working to better regulate what is on the market and who is behind the importation of expired pharmaceuticals.

"We go on the market. We sample products, and we publish the results so that we can name and shame so we are starting. We hope that within 18 months Ghana should be able to have very decent data on the extent of the quality problem in the country," Dr. Dodoo said.

Dodoo says that will give health officials a better sense of the scale of the problem and allow for the eventual prosecution of those purposefully endangering public health.