Saeed Hassan Ali said trading in counterfeit medicines is punishable under Article 423 of Federal law No 3 of 1987. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: More stringent laws for crimes involving counterfeit drugs are needed, said speakers on the concluding day of the Emirates International Conference on Combating Drug Counterfeiting that is being held in Dubai.

The two-day conference is being attended by international, regional and local experts as well as representatives from apex health bodies such as World Health Organisation (WHO) to discuss ways to tackle the global problem of drug counterfeiting.

Major Dr Saeed Hassan Ali, from Dubai Police’s Anti-Economic Crime Department, speaking at the morning’s session titled ‘Dubai Police And Counterfeit Medicines. Reality And Challenges’ highlighted the legal action that fake or counterfeit medicines attracted. Trading in them is punishable under Article 423 of Federal law No 3 of 1987, he stated.

The law, he informed, stipulates detention and a fine or one of the two penalties to be imposed on anyone who “cheats a party contracting with him in the genuineness, nature, or substantial qualities of goods, the elements of their composition, or the quality or origin of goods in cases where such things are considered basic causes of contracting, or in the quantity, number, measurement, scale, weight, capacity or in the goods themselves, if the items delivered are different from those contracted upon”.

“But if the counterfeit item is a medicine or a drug, the person is also charged with endangering the lives of others.” Major Ali said.

“Counterfeit medicines are not found in pharmacies in the UAE, but they are usually sold by individuals online or through social media. The drugs are usually sexual stimulants, growth hormones and steroids used by bodybuilders,” he informed.

“We do not get a lot of cases of fake drugs, as the Ministry of Health, health departments of the different emirates, customs and other government bodies involved in the fight against counterfeit drugs are doing a great job,” he said, adding that they get one such case a year if any.

During his presentation, Major Ali showcased two cases that the department handled in 2011.

Case 1: Dubai Police’s Anti-Economic Crime Department seized 70,000 sexual stimulant pills, after they received information that a man was selling them online. “We posed as customers and once he exchanged the products, he was arrested. His car and home were searched and we found 70,000 pills that were poorly stored.”

He added that this man is considered a small dealer.

Case 2: Police once again posed as customers, but this time the man was selling growth hormones used by gym-goers wanting to bulk up. “When we arrested him, he confessed that he buys the hormones from a bigger dealer and led us to him,” Major Ali said.

“We sent samples of the products we seize for testing and the results we received were shocking; some of the products were meant for use on animals, and others were stimulants banned by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” he explained.

Dr Hashim Tarifi, Manager of the Drug and Medical Products Department at the Health Regulation Division at the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), speaking at the same session said fake drugs are made in makeshift labs that do not follow any health or safety regulations.

HAAD, he informed, also has an “adulterated products list” available on its website for the public to reference, to ensure they are not using any of those banned products.

HAAD carries out periodic tests on products available in the market. “We have tested 34 new products between August 2014 and March 2015 and three were recalled from the market.” Tarifi said. The three products were MADU Vitamin (Royal Honey), Unitone 4 White Cream and Splina Chlorophyll Drink.