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Liberia Tackles Counterfeit Drugs

Counterfeit medicine

The Government of Liberia has set up a regulatory authority to address the problem of counterfeit and substandard pharmaceuticals.

According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, as much as 50 to 60 percent of anti-infective medicines tested in Africa were found to be counterfeit or contained insufficient amounts of the active ingredients.

The organization says a wave of counterfeit drug crime is currently sweeping through West Africa, putting the lives of sick people seeking treatment at risk.

In response, Liberia's government has set up a regulatory body to tackle the problem.

Reverend Tijili Tarty Tyee is Liberia's Chief Pharmacist. "Here, we have got porous borders," he explains, "People infiltrate our borders, bring medicine by truck at night and you find the drugs in the street."

He said the country is embarking on a rigorous campaign to ensure that only quality medicines enter Liberia. "The first thing we have to do as a responsible government is to clean our own backyard," he says, "The next move is to deploy pharmacists at every major entry point into our country. They will be able to inspect all the medicines that enter our country."

A study carried out in August revealed 44 percent of tested anti-malarial medication in Liberia was substandard. High levels of impurities were particularly found in chloroquine tablets and syrups on the Liberian market.

Other combination drugs, such as artemisinin-based medicines, were found to be of a reasonable standard.

"Liberians stand to benefit from this act that has been passed into law," Tyee states.

According to the specialist malaria health organization Mentor Initiative, malaria is the leading cause of death among adults and children in Liberia. In a recent study conducted by the group, malaria parasites were found in 32 percent of blood slides taken from children six months to five-years old.

With such a high rate of infection, it is important that the drugs used to treat malaria patients are not counterfeit or substandard.