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Fake drugs alarm

Torika Tokalau
Monday, June 09, 2014

FIJI should be on high alert for counterfeit goods, which includes pharmaceutical drugs.

Jeremy Douglas, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Fiji should be on alert for counterfeit goods, which was as much an issue as drug trafficking in the region.

In an exclusive interview with The Fiji Times, Mr Douglas said organised crime groups targeted vulnerable countries and regions that had markets that could be tapped into for selling drugs.

Countries with lower capacity and weak regulations were also vulnerable, and the counterfeit practice even went all the way to medicines, he said.

"For example, on the pharmaceutical side, if fake pharmaceuticals are a big issue, how are the governments in the Pacific able to check if something's fake or not? Do they even have that capacity? So they (organised crime groups) might be dumping fake products which can be dangerous fake products," he said.

Mr Douglas said counterfeit goods and smuggling were other kinds of transnational crimes on the rise as seen in other parts of the world.

He said the danger with counterfeit goods, especially counterfeit medicines, were the unsafe ingredients used.

"For example, counterfeit medicines which can be quite dangerous, are also worth a lot of money to organised crimes," he said.

"People who go into pharmacies may not know they are buying fake pharmaceuticals, even the pharmacists may not know they are selling fake pharmaceuticals because they are very well faked with good packaging but the ingredients may not be safe."

Fiji Medical Association (FMA) president Dr James Fong said while he couldn't verify if counterfeit medicines had crossed Fiji's borders, Fiji was indeed vulnerable to counterfeit medicines and this concern had been raised several times by FMA members in past forums.

"I, as FMA president, am a member of the Medicines and Products Board which is a unit within the Fiji Pharmaceutical and Bio-medical Service," Dr Fong said.

"This unit has the role of monitoring medicines in the country to deal with the issue of counterfeit drugs. We also have strong regulations that ensure medicinal drugs can only be sold by certified pharmacies.

"However whilst we may have these basic structure, I believe a lot more work is needed to improve our capacity to ensure transparency in the quality of medicines received in the country."

Health Ministry's media officer Sunil Chandra yesterday said they had drafted a response but it was yet to be approved by the permanent secretary for Health.

The ministry was yet to respond when this edition went to press last night.





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