Dubai: Sexual enhancement drugs such as Viagra, those for treatment of erectile dysfunction as well as weight reduction food supplements sold online through fake pharmacies are the main counterfeit medicines available in the UAE, said a senior official of the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, on Monday.
The counterfeit drug market was valued at $85 billion at the end of 2015 and is ever expanding, said Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary of public health policy and licensing sector at the ministry.
He delivered the keynote address at the two-day Second International Conference on Medicine Counterfeiting held in association with international agencies such as the Pharmaceuticals Security Agency for Europe Middle East and Asia (EMEA), the US Food and Drug Administration, Interpol, UAE Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice, among other stakeholders.
“The UAE is committed to joining hands with their international counterparts in dealing with this scourge as human health is very valuable to the government,” he said.
“Purchasing and consuming counterfeit drugs can actually kill a person. Nearly 32 per cent of the counterfeit or fake dugs are sold without the active ingredient or have the ingredient in either less or excess dosage. Nearly 8.5 per cent contain impurities and dangerous contaminations.”
Dr Al Amiri said that according to the World Health Organisation counterfeit drugs had captured nearly 10 per cent of the global medicine market, and nearly 30 to 50 per cent drugs used to treat severe conditions were counterfeit.
He announced the promulgation of a new federal pharmaceutical law by the end of 2017 which is under deliberation at the moment by the Federal National Council as one among the many tools that the UAE has created to combat counterfeit medicine mafia.
“The new law concentrates very strongly on all aspects of combating counterfeit trade in medicines," he said.
"One of the articles in the 100-page law is about new procedures on how to seize shipment of counterfeit medicines arriving in this country for either internal consumption or for import and re-export to other parts of the world, laws to prohibit the abuse of semi controlled medicines, laws to deal firmly with strong punitive measures against erring individuals, companies, shipping and courier organisations, hospitals and pharmacies.”
What is counterfeit medicine?
Counterfeit drugs are medicines that are created by fake companies to imitate the original branded or generic drugs with the intention of deliberately and fraudulently misleading about the source or the origin of manufacture. These drugs may not contain the active ingredient mentioned on the label, or contain it in higher or lower doses, or even be completely fake. Ingestion of such medicines can prove to be fatal in many cases.
Right now the top nine categories of counterfeited drugs in the world are those for:
Anti-infectives: 21.1 per cent
Genito-urinary: 14.5 per cent
Cardiovascular diseases: 11.6 per cent
Central nervous system: 11 per cent
Alimentary canal: 9.1 per cent
Musculoskeletal: 8.1 per cent
Metabolism: 7.7 per cent
Respiratory: 3.8 per cent
Combatting counterfeit drugs
• Communication, education and awareness raising
• Fostering collaboration with all stakeholders that includes law enforcing agencies, pharmacies and hospitals
• Strengthening quality control by introducing new technology in the ministry laboratories
• Securing supply chain with smart packaging that is machine-readable and tamper-proof, and with proof of authenticity
• Introducing Tru Scan, a special scanning machine that can detect a fake or counterfeit within seven seconds.
• Appointing ministry inspectors for surveillance at customs, courier companies and other collection points of imported drugs which can be scanned using Tru Scan device
• Initiating E-prescriptions for transparency to ensure that no patient can misuse a prescription of especially control drugs by getting prescriptions from more than one doctor for the same period