Counterfeit drugs have become a worldwide problem. The issue is prevalent here in Guyana and several other countries in the Caribbean as well as in the United States. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are among the products with the greatest potential for harming users if not contained from an early stage.
Preventing counterfeit drugs from entering most countries including Guyana with a very porous border is extremely difficult, in part because the active medicinal components of drugs are imported.
Generic drugs are for the most part, cheaper than the name drugs with the same base component. Counterfeit drugs are even cheaper because the manufacturers do not have to adhere to the rigid production standards and conditions, which could be costly; they do not have to pay the cost of inspection.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a counterfeit drug is a pharmaceutical product which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source and applies to both branded and unbranded medicines, the so-called generics.
Due to the rise of internet pharmacies, the WHO estimates that about 10 percent of the medications sold in Europe, the U.S, Canada, and other developed countries are counterfeits. However, developing countries are the worst affected because their regulatory structures are weaker. Health experts have estimated that 30 percent of the medicines sold in developing countries are counterfeit. In Africa, it is 70 percent.
Counterfeit drug trade is a US$250 billion per year industry and is the largest of the US$ 2.3 trillion fraudulent goods sold worldwide every year. The problem is dependent on how tight are the legal controls.
Detecting counterfeit drugs is difficult, because they pass through a long and complicated distribution network. Sometimes, they enter the legal supply chain. No type of drug, from the most expensive to everyday antibiotics or birth control is immune.
Counterfeit medicines might have the wrong amount of the active ingredient, or none of it at all, or they may contain a different drug or other materials unsafe for human consumption. Many of the drugs are contaminated.
All drugs must undergo clinical trials before being marketed to test their efficiency and verify their quality in order to exclude the potential existence of side effects on patients. These institutional and technical measures are meant to work as a safety valve to guarantee the quality of all medications.
The production of pharmaceuticals should be regulated to ensure product compliance with the highest quality and safety standards. Unfortunately, these regulations are not observed by manufacturers of counterfeit drugs. Instead, they use substandard products and hazardous chemicals. The end result from using counterfeit medicine ranges from ineffective therapeutic results to severe health problems or death.
Counterfeit drugs pose a serious threat to the health and safety of the citizens, especially seniors and children. Studies have shown that counterfeit pharmaceuticals exact a devastating human toll, killing more than one million people annually.
Expensive, prescription drugs such as those used in AIDS or cancer are especially lucrative for counterfeiting, but the most common are antibiotics, Viagra and Cialis. Therefore, theoretically, every person is at risk.
It is imperative for pharmaceutical companies to follow the legal requirements to ensure the safety of the general public. In many countries, the risk of being effectively punished for producing counterfeit medicines varies. But counterfeit drugs seem to be a more lucrative industry in countries with weak regulations.
The pirating of counterfeit goods may seem not to be a crime, but those who trade in counterfeit goods must be punished severely by the laws of their respective countries. Raymond Green, a US Congressman said, “Punishment for putting patients at risk ought to reflect the gravity of manufacturing, distributing or selling counterfeit medications.”
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