Counterfeit malaria drugs rife in Ghana

11 November 2010

11 November 2010 | Angeline Albert

Procurement staff in Ghana’s hospitals and pharmacies have been told to be more vigilant about fake anti-malarial medication.

Substandard and counterfeit versions of 13 anti-malarial drugs were uncovered in hospitals and pharmacies across the country by the Medicines Quality Monitoring Surveillance Programme.

The discovery of counterfeit drugs in use at a government-run hospital and private clinic, and being distributed through many pharmacies, has resulted in a nationwide recall of all 13 substances, including publicising the names of the outlets where they were found.

The Ghana Food and Drugs Board (FDB) said publicising the names of the outlets “is intended as a strong deterrent, making pharmacy and hospital procurement personnel more vigilant about their suppliers”.

Patrick Lukulay is director of the Promoting the Quality of Medicines initiative which aims to improve the safety of medicines in 28 countries, and is working with the FDB.

He said: “The fact that the fake and poor quality drugs were so widespread - found in many areas across Ghana, and in many types of outlets - underscores the need not only for continuing surveillance but also for active enforcement of anti-counterfeiting laws. The existence of many more substandard and counterfeit medications for other types of medicines and in other locations and facilities must be assumed.

“Public education and official collaborations between public and private sectors are both essential to protecting public health here in Ghana and in many other developing nations.”

The fake and substandard medicines were found in just one round of post-market surveillance of anti-malarial drugs. Some of the medication discovered contained no active pharmaceutical ingredient, while others failed to meet required quality standards.

Stephen Opuni, chief executive officer of the FDB, said: “This causes great harm in two ways: the individual patients taking the drugs get no relief, and drug-resistant strains of malaria may grow stronger. In addition, people lose confidence in the efficacy of medicines and may be reluctant to seek medical help when they need it.”

The FDB is calling on the manufacturers of some of the recalled medications to meet with them with a view to imposing tighter regulations.


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