NAIROBI, May 28 – The government Wednesday said it would employ the services of the National Security Intelligence Services (NSIS) to nab suppliers of counterfeit and sub-standard drugs in the country.
The announcement follows numerous reports of increased availability of fake medicine, especially anti-malarial drugs.
“As you perfect the method of surveillance, you increase the likelihood that counterfeit drugs will come in over time. That is why we are going to work with the NSIS to perfect the surveillance methods so as to decrease the probability of having more counterfeits in the market,” said the Medical Services Minister, Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o.
The American Enterprise Institute in February 2008 reported that 38 percent of anti-malarial drugs tested in Kenya were substandard.
But Nyong’o said that only16 percent of the drugs were second-rate, quoting a 2006 report by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
The Minister also noted that the Pharmacy and Poisons Board had issued circulars in January 2008 directing that malaria drugs containing only Artemesinin (monotherapies) – except for injectables – should no longer be registered and approved for the treatment of malaria in the country.
“The board will only register drugs that have a combination of Artemesinin and any other anti-malarial molecule (fixed dose combinations of Artemesinin-based Combination Therapy – ACTs) and not packs containing individual drugs,” he informed.
The basis for having ACTs is to protect the malarial parasite from developing resistance to Artemesinin, which is currently one of the most effective defences there are against malaria, which drastically reduce the parasite load.
Nyong’o added that antiretroviral drugs, anti-TB and other kinds of medicine were also being analysed to ensure their quality.
“It’s just like drug trafficking,” the minister compared.
“When you catch heroine in Mombasa; you will arrest the person who is with it and then begin investigating where the heroine came from. So ours is to ensure that we have zero counterfeit drugs in the market.”
“Be warned that if you are out there trying to sell counterfeit drugs to Kenyans you will be caught very soon and answer for your sins,” he cautioned.
Despite malaria remaining a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya, especially in young children and pregnant women, effective control has been hampered by the emergence of parasite resistance to commonly used anti-malarial drugs that have led to changes in the treatment of the disease.