Fake Medicines Causing Thousands Of Death Across Africa

The proliferation of counterfeit medicines in Africa has become an emergency health crisis that can no longer be ignored, according to a UK charity.

The Brazzaville Foundation will be meeting with seven African countries, in Togo, this week in a bid to tackle the issues.

Congo, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Uganda, Ghana and The Gambia will discuss the way forward in the crackdown of the trafficking of counterfeit medicine.

According to reports by BBC, globally, the trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is worth up to $200bn (£150bn) annually, with Africa among the regions most affected, according to industry estimates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 42% of all fake medicines reported to them between 2013 and 2017 were from Africa.

The European region and the Americas (North and South) accounted for 21% each.

Although the full stats are hard to pull up as the trade is mostly underground.

However recent seizures in West African countries show the real magnitude of the problem.

According to statistics, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone seized 19 tonnes of counterfeit medicines in 2018

Smugglers in Ivory Coast were intercepted trying to bring in 12 tonnes of counterfeit pharmaceuticals from Ghana in 2019

An Interpol-led operation in seven West African countries seized more than 420 tonnes of illicit pharmaceutical products in 2017

Nearly 19.88 tonnes of fake medicines were seized in Mali between 2015-18

The accounting firm PwC says the proportion of fake pharmaceuticals in some countries can be as high as 70%, in developing regions such as Africa.

WHO estimates one out of every 10 medical products in low- and middle-income countries, which includes most of Africa, is sub-standard or fake.

Analysis by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for the WHO estimates substandard and fake anti-malarial drugs could be causing 116,000 extra deaths.

And in 2015, a study published in the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated more than 122,000 children under the age of five died each year because of sub-standard anti-malarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fake medicine can often be hard to differentiate from the real products because the packing is almost identical to the original one if not better.

There’s also an issue with the high cost of drugs in third world countries.

“If a good quality medicine from a known supplier is too expensive, people may try a cheaper one from an unlicensed supplier,” WHO says.

Currently, there are technological applications being used to try and tackle the issue head-on.

The applications can help users verify the authenticity of their medication by using scratch stickers, barcodes and other means of identification printed on the packaging.

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