Regulators meet to address the threat of Counterfeit Medicines, unclean environments without the normal environmental safety controls, or their production may have occurred in a substandard environment and they may contain dangerous pollutants in Sub-Saharan Africa

An international conference to discuss the issue of counterfeit medicines in Africa started in Johannesburg. The aim of the conference is to the threats that counterfeit medicines and unregistered generics pose for the safety of patients discuss in sub-Saharan countries and to develop joint plans of action to address this issue.

Twenty customs officials, medicine regulators and government representatives from ten sub-Saharan countries, as well as representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) will meet over the course of three days. The program includes workshops during which the participants will share experiences and develop comprehensive action plans to help keep medicine supplies in Africa secure and safe.

According to  WHO Representative Dr. Moses Chisale,  the threat that counterfeit medicines pose to society is very real and are present in all regions. Areas where regulatory and legal oversight are weakest bear the brunt of the problem.  Combating counterfeiting is a shared responsibility involving relevant government agencies, manufacturers, distributors, health professionals, consumers and the general public. Governments have to create the appropriate environment for the participation of all concerned partners.

The WHO defines a fake or counterfeit drug as a medicine  which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source. Counterfeiting poses an important public health issue. A wide range of medicines, including Pfizer medicines, have been counterfeited to date. Counterfeit drugs can cause serious health problems, and can result in death, as has been the case in some countries where epidemics like malaria have been treated with “medicines” that have contained no active ingredients. In other cases where the active ingredient is absent or at very low levels, counterfeit drugs will simply provide no health benefit at all.

There are also cases where medicines contain far too much active ingredient and are potentially harmful for that reason. In addition, counterfeit drugs may have been manufactured in unclean environments without the normal environmental safety controls, or their production may have occurred in a substandard environment and they may contain dangerous pollutants.

Counterfeit medicines are a global problem from which no region is exempt. While it is difficult to accurately describe the full scope of the counterfeiting problem, reported seizures of counterfeit medicines do serve as a useful baseline. Since 2004, authorities have seized more than 30 million counterfeit Pfizer tablets, and enough active pharmaceutical ingredients to manufacture over 50 million more.