– Director says about 30 percent of potentially harmful ‘fake’ pharmaceuticals may be in circulation
…”We have had some very serious incidents. We are losing patients because of some of these drugs…(but) you wouldn’t see the medication itself being flagged by a post mortem as being the cause of death…” – Director of the Government-Analyst Food and Drug Department, Marlan Cole
By Rehana Ahamad
Nirmala Singh-Deodat had been suffering from a “nasty” rash for many days. Eventually, she decided to visit the Diamond Diagnostic Centre to have it checked out.
The 57-year-old woman was prescribed an ointment which she had to apply twice a day on the affected area – her hands and feet.
Singh-Deodat followed the pharmacist’s instructions strictly for three days, before noticing that her condition had worsened. What was a simple and treatable rash had turned into unsightly sores which had an accompanying odour.
“I couldn’t even be with my husband. It was that bad,” the woman related to Kaieteur News yesterday.
Appalled at what she had become, the mother of three returned to the hospital, where she was told to desist from using the product.
“The girl at the hospital just tell me that is everybody complaining about the cream, so they stop giving it out. But wha happen to the people like me who already use it? This is nuff wrang tekkin place in this country,” Singh-Deodat complained. She has since recovered, but hers is not an isolated case that should be seen as frivolous.
Director of the Government-Analyst Food and Drug Department, Marlan Cole has admitted that there are many substandard and potentially deadly medications that are unknowingly being distributed by medical professionals in the country.
Cole estimated that there might be an average of about 30 percent of fake or substandard pharmaceuticals currently in circulation.
PEOPLE ARE DYING!
“We have had some very serious incidents. We are losing patients because of some of these drugs.”
Quizzed further on this disturbing reality, Cole divulged that his department is investigating cases where medications have “indirectly” caused people to die.
“…Indirectly in the sense that you wouldn’t see the medication itself being flagged by a post mortem as being the cause of death.”
Cole gave an example using High Blood Pressure (BP).
“If a patient’s BP is high, a doctor would most naturally prescribe medications to lower this. But if the medication is a ‘watered down’ version of the original, then it may not have the desired effect. The person might eventually die from high blood pressure.”
Yes, that is exactly what Cole said – the person might eventually die. This troubling issue of fake drugs exists in both the public and private health sectors.
“As we speak, the Food and Drug Department is engaged in some investigations as it relates to cases like this,” Cole said.
He declined to give any solid details of these cases.
During a conference in 2014, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow highlighted the malaria medication fiasco of a few years ago. It was a case where ineffective tablets were being prescribed and distributed to patients.
“Some pharmacists were reducing the portion of medicine to increase the number of sales, but this can result in the malaria parasite developing a resistance to the drugs used to treat the illness,” Dr. Adu-Krow said.
He pointed out that the marketing of Substandard, Spurious, Falsely labelled, Falsified, Counterfeit (SSFFC) drugs is a major issue across the globe”… and use of them can prove to be fatal because of their inability to cure patients.”
Dr. Adu-Krow noted that SSFFC drugs can also result in inaccurate diagnosis and treatment, in addition to unwarranted expense.
At the very conference, the PAHO Official decried Guyana’s state, lamenting the need for more resources to test for SSFFC drugs and products entering the country.
As it is, Guyana only has four inspectors capable of testing the authenticity of pharmaceuticals on the market. This, coupled with the lack of technical capacity to do shipment by shipment testing, leaves thousands of Guyanese at risk.
But according to Cole, the Food and Drug Department has had some success in intercepting a number of questionable products.
“During my tenure so far, as head of the department, we have had cause to recall a few products that were not up to standard,” Cole noted.
He explained that when “bad” medications are detected, the company is immediately notified and ordered to remove the product. The investigative aspect of the matter would then kick off.
However, the lack of capacity to effectively prosecute matters of fake products has resulted in many companies evading jail time.
Cole told this newspaper recently that efforts have begun to train the inspectors who are legally permitted, but currently incapable of prosecuting these cases.
But until then, it is likely that people will continue to die, without any ramification for those responsible.
There is also the issue of fake cosmetics. A quantity of such products was intercepted and put on display a few years ago, as a means of warning consumers.
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