The sale of counterfeit drugs has reached disturbing proportions in the developing world. This has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to team up with other international organizations and national regulatory authorities to form a task force to curb the proliferation of counterfeit drugs. Dr. Valerio Regi is head of the group, the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task force. From Geneva he told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that the problem of counterfeit drugs is widespread, particularly in West Africa.
“In certain areas there are certain market areas where occasional sampling has led [us] to conclude that about half the drugs are counterfeit or of unknown origin.”
Dr. Regi said counterfeit drugs, in particular, are a problem because they are composed of unreliable ingredients.
“Drugs manufactured out of any control have either no therapeutic value or have a negative effect.” He said poor health systems in Africa contribute to the proliferation of counterfeit drugs.
“People have to pay for their drugs out of pocket and very often they have no access to reliable distribution system, and they cannot afford to pay the normal prices and they resort to alternative sources like street markets.
Dr. Regi said there are solutions to this problem, such as strengthening the regulatory systems, strengthening enforcement, and developing government programs to improve the coverage of the supply systems. He said people also need to be aware of the downside of purchasing drugs from unregulated sources.