Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2011) – Counterfeit medicines are adding to the already jeopardized health of Africans and the solution requires global and domestic coordination, said Partnership for Safe Medicines Executive Director Scott LaGanga during a panel on fake medicines at the joint seminar hosted by the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO), Patient Health Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations (PHANGO) and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) today in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“All the recent data on the prevalence of fake medicines in Africa shows that it is a growing problem and a booming market – in many African nations, upwards of 30 percent of medicines are fake. With the high poverty level and the fact that many medicines are sold outside of licensed pharmacies, this is a public health epidemic that, while challenging, requires action,” said LaGanga. “We commend the leadership of IAPO, PHANGO, and SADAG for bringing together so many major players in the African community in a powerful step toward addressing this problem.”
Sub-Saharan African countries account for almost 90 per cent of the more than 300 million illnesses and five million deaths caused by infectious diseases worldwide. Counterfeiters exploit this by selling less expensive medicines that contain none or less of the active ingredient, resulting in a population that not only doesn’t get well, but in many cases, becomes sicker. A 2008 study of anti-malarial drugs in six African countries found that 35 percent did not contain the proper amount of effective medicine.
In a region with such high levels of poverty, low literacy, poor health and significant corruption, it is a challenge to grasp the breadth of the fake medicine problem as well as identify ways to curb it.
“The key to addressing the counterfeit drug epidemic in Africa – and worldwide for that matter – is sustained and coordinated global cooperation among all the stakeholders, including patient groups, health care professionals, law enforcement, industry and government,” continued LaGanga. “There is no easy answer, but that can’t stop us. We must continue to fight to ensure patients have access to safe and effective medicines no matter where they live in the world.”
Comprised of more than 60 non-profit organizations, the Partnership for Safe Medicines is a public health group committed to the safety of prescription medicines and protecting consumers against counterfeit, substandard or otherwise unsafe medicines. PSM can be found on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SafeMedicines), Twitter (@safemedicines), and the web at www.safemedicines.org.
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