Seven African countries agree to criminalise fake drugs manufacturing, importation
London, Jan. 18, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Health leaders from seven African countries met on Friday in Togo’s capital Lomé to sign an agreement criminalising trafficking in fake drugs.
Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication.
The representatives from Congo-Brazzaville, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda are hoping that laws specifically targeting fake medications will do the trick.
The meeting tagged The Togo Initiative will discuss measures to clamp down on trafficking in fake medicines, says the Brazzaville Foundation.
Health activist Denis Bukenya from the Human Rights Research Documentation Centre in Uganda told BBC Newsday that existing laws could already be used to charge people importing fake drugs, but the penalties were too small to be a deterrent to criminals.
Denis said proliferation of fake medicines in Africa is a public health crisis that can no longer be ignored
A statement to herald the meeting says the lucrative traffic threatens regional security as it yields huge profits for organised criminal groups.
It argued that in many African countries the necessary criminal legislation does not exist, saying the Lomé Initiative will result in new criminal legislation interdicting this traffic, imposing tough penalties and strengthening capacities for rigorous enforcement, in adherence with relevant international agreements.
Other African countries will be encouraged to join this initiative. The Brazzaville Foundation will play a key role: having developed the Initiative, we will be responsible for coordinating and advising on its implementation. We are also conducting an audit of existing measures to identify gaps and threat
But how big a problem is counterfeit medicine in Africa, and what impact does it have?
How many counterfeit drugs are there?
Globally, the trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is worth up to $200bn (£150bn) annually, with Africa among the regions most affected, according to industry estimates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says 42% of all fake medicines reported to them between 2013 and 2017 were from Africa.
The European region and the Americas (North and South) accounted for 21% each.
The WHO has a reporting mechanism that relies on national or regional regulatory authorities around the world to notify it of seizures. So the data for 2013-17 is only as good as the surveillance and reporting systems in the countries or regions concerned.