The best prescription: triumph in your fight against counterfeit medicines
Counterfeiting is age old for as long as mankind has existed, ideas/ intellectual property have been stolen, or cheaply mimicked. However, as the scale and complexity of modern medicines have increased, counterfeit medicines fail miserably as medicines and now can cause serious illness and even death. Fake drugs are often cheaper and hence more accessible to poor people for whom cost is a major consideration in healthcare.
The trade in counterfeit drugs has grown substantially and reached a global worth of billions of dollars-and today mainly dominate in the developing countries. An estimated 10–30 per cent of the medicines is fake according to World Health Organization (WHO) and a good 10% higher found in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Authorities find it harder to control in the developing world as it is hard to find the difference between fake and substandard drugs.
Many fake medicines in fact are dummies deliberately created to resemble genuine drugs. Often they are placebos – only resembling outwardly but without any active ingredient — but sometimes harmful or poisonous chemicals are added. Substandard drugs may have some medicinal value, but may contain far lesser active ingredients than necessary. Both fake and substandard drugs have an adverse impact as patients don’t receive the required treatment. Some substandard medicines, can also have disastrous side-effects- and may even increasing resistance to drugs against serious diseases. To complicate matters for the authorities, legal definitions of counterfeit medicines are often so broad that they include generic drugs. Being non-brand versions of pharmaceutical drugs, Generics are produced and sold cheaply. As millions rely on inexpensive generic drugs to fight serious diseases like malaria or HIV/AIDS, laws that blur the boundary between these essential drugs can seriously threaten access to life-saving medicines.
WHY COUNTERFEIT DRUGS FLOURISH
Many rural areas have few pharmacies or health clinics, and it’s difficult to monitor or regulate counterfeits in far flung areas. As fake drugs are cheaper they are bought by poor people who reckon some medicine is better than none. Both stolen and ‘knock-off’ goods are widely and openly sold in markets in emerging markets, so counterfeit drugs may be taken for stolen, and hence as cheap, genuine medicines.
The poor legislative and regulatory framework for monitoring drug quality allows the fake medicines to flourish. Moreover, globalization facilitates counterfeiting, spreading distribution networks and advances in technology have also made high-quality labels and packaging relatively easy to produce, and pharmaceutical chemicals cheap to mass-produce. As a result, fake drugs are harder to capture.
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