NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – The Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) has called for the strengthening of the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit law that was passed last year, to help stem the flow of counterfeit drugs into the country.
This follows reports by pharmaceutical industry officials that 40 percent of the drugs sold in Kenya are counterfeit.
PSK chairman Dominic Ngugi said on Thursday that regulatory mechanisms need to be put in place to prevent the production of counterfeit drugs in the country.
“There is supposed to be a surveillance mechanism to ensure that only those authorised drugs are entering the market,” Mr Ngugi stressed and added that loopholes in the legal system were making the law porous.
“Unfortunately, due to poor capacity and also the weaknesses within the system, the whole market becomes free.”
During an interview with Capital News, he called for stiffer penalties to be imposed on those who deal with fake drugs.
“The penalties ought to be high enough in keeping with the consequences. The penalties ought to be severe, they ought to be prohibitive,” he emphasised.
“Even as we treat narcotic traffickers more seriously, we should be treating counterfeiters along the same lines,” he added.
The counterfeit drug trade is growing, and in Africa, where corruption is rife, the sale of unregulated medicines is particularly troublesome.
There are fears that the situation will only get worse as Africa strengthens its ties with China, where up to 75 percent of the world’s counterfeit drugs are believed to originate from.
For the last several years, the Chinese government and companies have signed numerous deals with the leaders of African nations to build roads, import goods or mine natural resources.
As those supply chains open up wider, experts fear that more counterfeits will follow.
The aim of the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Law 2008 is to among other things combat trade and other dealings in counterfeit goods.
Critics however argue that it is improper to freeze parallel imports that benefited Kenyans since they were cheap and accessible.
Besides consolidating laws on counterfeit sales and production into a single statute, the law also seeks to protect Kenyans from dangerous medicines and other consumer goods.
It criminalises possession and manufacture of counterfeits and spells out punishment for offenders.
According to the World Health Organisation, counterfeit medicine is that which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source.
Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and may include products with the correct ingredients or with the wrong ones.