NAIROBI, April 14- The health care industry has urged the government to enhance inspection of goods being traded across borders, to prevent the entry of counterfeit drugs, which currently account for 30 percent of pharmaceutical trade.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) General Manager for East Africa, John Musunga Monday remarked that as the government continues to crack the whip on narcotics; more unscrupulous businessmen were beginning to trade in fake medicinal drugs.
Musunga revealed that although the industry has no problem with parallel trade, where people import cheaper products with the intent of charging less than the competitors in the retail market, the authorities need to be more stringent with such imports.
“There is no contention there but unfortunately most of those mechanisms lead to the importation of more counterfeits than genuine ones,” the GM added.
While taking reporters on a tour of the factory which mainly has operations in pharmaceutical, consumer health care and vaccine, Musunga said that such trade compromises the conditions under which specialized drugs are meant to be transported, leading to the sale of sub standard products.
“Exposing medicines to high temperatures or unfavourable conditions changes the composition of the drugs rendering them ineffective,” he added.
At the same time, he called on the government to speed up work on the country’s infrastructure which would in turn reduce the high costs of doing business.
“This move will also have the multiplier effect of reducing the prices of the products,” he noted.
Asked why the company, which uses Kenya as a manufacturing hub for nine African countries, had not relocated despite the high manufacturing costs, the GM explained that Kenya was still a significant market for them despite the challenges it had faced in the past few months.
He remarked that the company had a strategy where it imported some products and manufactured some in its Nairobi plant to balance out the economies of scale.
Some products could attract higher duties if they were imported from the other manufacturing units in the continent such as South Africa and Egypt, he stated.
“GSK manufactures a lot of products so every year we review a list of what we should import and what we should make locally,” he added.
Many multinational companies have over the years moved to neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania citing the high production costs.
Underscoring the economy and the purchasing power of the locals, Musunga said full year sales in the two East African countries account for less than half those made in Kenya.
“We have got problems in Kenya, but do not ever underestimate Kenya,” the GM warned.
He also added that the industry was pushing for the streamlining of herbal medicines which would provide health care options for the consumer.
It is estimated that 80 percent of Africa’s population uses traditional medicine altouhg experts have continually raised the red flag on the inappropriate use of traditional medicines and practices, which they warn can have negative effects on the users.
He called on the government to emulate Asian countries such as India and China and invest heavily in research so as to ascertain the efficacy and safety of traditional practices and medicinal plants.
“We cannot discount the role of herbal medicine but we need to have guidelines for the sector,” he maintained.
GSK was formed eight years ago as a result of a merger between SmithKline Becheem and Glaxo Welcomes and has predominantly British shareholders.
The company that has headquarters in the UK and the US has an estimated seven per cent of the world\’s pharmaceutical market.