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March 17, 2019

Drugged to death


March 17, 2019

According to doctors in the US, at least 250,000 children die globally each year after receiving counterfeit drugs intended to treat malaria or pneumonia. Others die from drugs marketed to treat other ailments. Scientists report that the penalties against those retailing and manufacturing these drugs are minimal. We cannot say with any certainty how many persons may be falling victims to fake medicines sold to them in our own country. Certainly, over the years we have heard multiple reports of spurious or fake medicines being sold to the public. Some are manufactured locally; some come in from countries including China. Criminal gangs are involved in the provision of such medicines both locally and globally.

Given the laxity of the checks we use to regulate medications, it is necessary that we improve the safety systems in place. Poor quality medicines are easily available at far too many places as is the unregulated sale of substances used for medicinal purposes, even though these can be fatal. We hear periodically of raids on chemists selling poor quality drugs or on quack doctors but at the end of the day the problem continues. Measures that are lasting and can make a genuine difference have so far not proven possible. This is largely attributable to the lack of will behind such measures rather than any other factor.

If we genuinely wish to save people from the harmful effects of substandard medicines this can be achieved by enforcing the penalties laid down under the law and ensuring that drug inspectors carry out proper checks. We know that drugs in common use are quite often manufactured in small backseat outlets using poor quality ingredients. The high prices of genuine, branded drugs also mean that in many cases people see no alternative but to buy what they can find at affordable costs. The issue of medicine, its pricing, its availability and its standards needs to be looked together as a whole. Only when a policy addressing all these issues is put in place and implemented can people be saved from the fake medicines which are claiming lives around the world and in our own country.

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