The Director of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD), Marlan Cole, indicated that his department has given fraud department police ranks their findings into the selling of fake medical drugs.
Director Cole told Kaieteur News that “the report of our investigation was dropped off to the Brickdam Police Station fraud department where they are seeking Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage from the pharmacies where the illegal products were found, in an attempt to trace the registration number on the vehicle of the distributor.
“We are taking this move because the retailers did not have any paperwork that we can trace for a location or specific person who is sourcing these products. We were told the individual would just arrive with the stock in his vehicle, give the price of the items, hand over and leave.” He added.
Moreover, the director said that some of the items looked very much authentic and had been on the market for a very long time.
“During this investigation I felt very shocked to see some items that I personally knew which were on the market for a very long time. With close examination we found the difference. It’s like the person is photocopying authentic items but we can’t say as yet how the fake items are being created
The Guyana Police Force (GPF) was called in to assist the GA-FDD to locate the distributor who is manufacturing and selling a number of pharmaceuticals under conditions that are not authorized.
During a sweep of the markets in and around Georgetown, health inspectors located a number of substandard/falsified (SF) medications at some local pharmacies.
According to information released by the GA-FDD, inspectors visited 16 pharmacies on August 22, 2019 and August 23, 2019. The SF drugs were found at nine of the locations and these products were seized and removed from the premises.
.At the retail locations for the illegal pharmaceuticals, investigators seized 17 boxes of a medication labeled “chanca piedra phosmovite”, sold at $3,500, which is purportedly used to treat gall and kidney stones, clean the liver and the urinary tract.
Also found were 28 boxes of a product named “Fungabort”, sold at an average price of $1,000, which was said to be effective in the treatment of nail fungus. In addition, 23 boxes of “Phosferine”, sold at an average price of $3,000, were seized.
The director highlighted that since the findings of the investigation were released none of the customers have attempted to make contact with the relevant authorities to give a feedback about the products to indicate if they were effective against the symptoms for which they were prescribed.
GA-FDD had reported that on some of the drugs found, a manufacturer’s address stated as “Mainland Labs in Canada” and “Phosferine Health Care Co., Toronto Canada” was not established in the database of the Food and Drugs Department.
The teams were also unable to verify the addresses on the labels of other products.
On scanning the barcodes on the suspicious products, the GF-FDD teams found that none were in the Department’s systems.
The Department strongly raised the fact that it is a clear breach of the Consumer Affairs Act Section 18: 1-3 and the Food and Drugs Act, Part VI, Chapter 21 which speaks to adequate record keeping for traceability purposes particularly for the sale of medication for patient use.
GA-FDD is therefore advising all pharmacies to immediately desist from the practice of purchasing and retailing medication from “walk-in-salesmen” (suitcase traders) who refuse to provide invoices or adequate receipt or other records for traceability purposes.
The head of the department had said that a country-wide sweep will be done to see if the illegal items are being retailed at locations other than the ones reported. Details of the countrywide exercise are likely to be released by next month.
The Department, he said, is currently in a position to aggressively implement measures to protect consumers from the associated dangers of SF medications.
To aid its investigations, the Department examined the products individually and the batch numbers and tried to trace these back to the facility where they were manufactured. If that cannot be traced it will confirm the allegation of the item being processed locally.
With the next step being for them to locate the distributor, the Director speculated that such a person operating illegally may be found operating a mini-lab in his or her home, photocopying some labels, buying bottles, similar to the ones used in Guyana, from another country.
According to Cole, if the distributor is found to be operating under illegal circumstances legal action will be taken. Currently, such acts incur a fine of up $30,000 along with six months’ imprisonment.
Kaieteur News had reported that ingredients in some of the products, could be detrimental to users. Information provided to this publication reveal that one of the products sold is made with ‘Caustic Soda’ better known as Sodium Hydroxide which is broken down as an ingredient in one the products.
This product is also known as lye, and caustic soda is an inorganic compound, is a highly caustic base and alkali that may cause severe chemical burns.
Furthermore, another website, ThoughtCo, stated, “Caustic soda is not sold in bulk and in some cases it has been removed from the market because of being used as an ingredient to make illegal drugs.”
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