An “epidemic” of counterfeit therapeutic drugs is sweeping through Botswana, threatening lives of thousands of citizens who are taking them under the mistaken belief that they are receiving vital treatment for their illnesses.
President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Botswana (PSB), Scott Senwelo, has warned that counterfeit medicines are becoming a serious problem and control measures are needed urgently to combat the threat to human life.
For a few years now, Botswana authorities have been trying to combat the growing therapeutic drugs black market without much success. A few years ago the Diamond and Narcotics Squad at Otse Police College destroyed bootleg drugs valued into thousands of pula. Among the products were Viagra and contraception pills.
The products are reported to be sophisticated fakes, often displaying holograms on the packaging, originally aimed at making counterfeiting difficult. Speaking during the 23rd PSB Congress, Senwelo said, “Pharmacists have to come up with a system that will reduce the current inflow of counterfeit medicines into the country.”
He said the counterfeit medicines are coming in various forms that included Viagra, various herbal products and facial medicines.
“The counterfeiters have become very sophisticated as they are replicating the labels and packaging of the original medicines and people have to be very careful,” he said.
He said the danger to the consumer is that the products are of low quality and are often produced in hazardous and unhygienic factories.
Senwelo said the products may contain few, too much or no active ingredients at all.
“They put people at risk of harm from medical products that may contain too much, too little or the wrong active ingredient and/or contain toxic ingredients,” he said.
Senwelo added that tight security systems need to be put at different border posts to ensure that no fake medicines come into the country. In addition, he said the security systems will help in identifying where the counterfeits medicines are coming from.
He appreciated what the Government, through the drug registration unit, is currently doing but said more has to be done without delay to avoid compromising people’s health.
He urged people to buy drugs only from licensed pharmacies and get professional help to avoid risking their health. Senwelo said they are currently reviewing the 1992 Drugs and Related Substances Act to become more stringent to curb this life threatening crime in the country.