Counterfeit drugs cause 0.7m deaths a year


Experts and civil society members have appealed to the newly-formed government to launch a crack down on counterfeit drugs in the best interest of patients and industry.
The speakers said this while addressing a seminar on counterfeit products in Pakistan. The counterfeit drugs are just one aspect of the counterfeit business but dangers of counterfeit drugs can be gauged by the fact that counterfeit drugs of malaria and tuberculosis alone result in 700,000 deaths a year globally, according to the WHO. The counterfeit drugs contain very low API, too much API, or wrong API which make them dangerous and many a times leads to death as well.
The speakers, representing food, beverages and pharmaceutical industry, as well as government agencies including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) said that counterfeit food and medicines were not only a serious health hazard, but also making billion of rupees revenue losses to the national exchequer.
Counterfeiting is violation of intellectual property rights and also tarnish the image of Pakistan on international front, they added. Former Justice Majida Razvi, Trustee of Helpline Trust and the Law Foundation, chaired the seminar and asked for strict Consumer Protection Law to combat counterfeiting and provide protection to industry as well as consumers.
She said absence of specific laws, special courts and delay in justice were hampering efforts to curb the spread of substandard and counterfeit goods in the country. “A strict and forceful enforcement of existing laws is needed to control the proliferation of counterfeit products which put human lives at risk,” she added.
Pharma Bureau Executive Director Ayesha Tammy Haq while giving a presentation at the seminar stressed the need of dealing strictly with counterfeit drugs that are taking heavy toll on patients and industry in the country.
“The interior ministry informed the National Assembly sometime back that 50 percent of all medicines in Pakistan are either counterfeit or substandard,” she said, adding that in 2011-12 as per the US Customs & Border Protection, Pakistan was one of the largest sources of counterfeit goods in the United States.
“Product counterfeiting is equivalent to consumer fraud. According to Federal Drug Authority (FDA) of the United States, up to 25 percent of all drugs consumed in poor countries are labeled counterfeit or substandard,” she added.
Similarly, she adds, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that up to 10 percent of the world’s pharmaceutical trade (30 percent in developing countries) consists of fake medicines, while the global market for spurious/counterfeit drugs is estimated to have the value of $ 431 billion.
She further said that patients could not easily differentiate between genuine and counterfeits, which increases the risk to their health. ‘This is the reason that patient succumbs to no guarantee of safety or efficacy,’ she added.
Other speakers at the seminar said that business of counterfeit drugs is flourishing in Pakistan day by day, as a director of a law enforcement agency was quoted recently as saying: “Criminals are attracted to the fake drugs business because it’s a low-risk, high-return area. And if we catch someone with heroin, he may get the death sentence, while fake pharmaceuticals may get him a few years of prison or he may get away with just a fine.”