The World Health Organization’s Global Surveillance and Monitoring System for Substandard and Falsified Medical Products, in recent times, issued an alert over the circulation of fake meningitis vaccines in Niger, and also raised the alarm of the circulation of fake hypertension drugs in Cameroon.
Both cases coming off the back of a number of incidents of counterfeit medicines circulating in African countries, with the latter seizing thousands of drugs of questionable quality. The reason for this issue stems from the fact that these countries are hindered by weak economies, poor regulatory practices, and a lack of consumer education.
African countries are also exposed because the authorised pharmaceutical market on the continent is growing swiftly in line with the population explosion. With the value of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry expected to double or triple by 2020, its no wonder its an attractive prospect to some of the big players in the industry.
With Africa alone accounting for 42% of globally identified cases of substandard and fake medical products, that is, according to a WHO report, there is a reason for caution. While innovators and regulators keep producing technology and new systems to check counterfeit medicine in Africa, the problem keeps proving to be stubbornly resilient.
In August, a team of five teenage Nigerian girls won a Silicon Valley prize for an App called FD Detector (Fake Drug Detector), which tackles the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products in Nigeria, reigniting the hope for the future.
Foreign action is also leveraging local efforts in the battle against fake drugs. The European Union is supporting an African project, Enhancing Africa’s ability to Counter Transnational Crime (ENACT), so as to tackle fake drugs on the continent.