Concerned groups call for stronger measures vs counterfeit medicine
The prevalence of unregulated pharmacies online complicates efforts against counterfeit medicines, according to the country’s top regulatory agency on food and drugs.
And since Asia is the region with the most reported cases of fake drugs, pharma watchdog Pharmaceutical Security Institute-Asia Pacific (PSI-Asia Pacific) warned patients and consumers to be more wary of their medicines.
The Food and Drugs Administration under the Department of Health teamed up with PSI-Asia Pacific , Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines and other concerned groups to call for stronger measures against counterfeit medicines.
This demand was made during a forum titled “Kapakanan ng Pamilya Alagaan, Huwad na Gamot Labanan” held Nov. 17 in Pasig City. The forum coincided with the celebration of National Consciousness Week Against Counterfeit Medicines.
Assistant Health Secretary Nicolas Lutero III, who is also FDA officer in charge, admitted that they have a hard time regulating online pharmacies, which are usually conduits of fake drugs, since some are based overseas.
Meanwhile, PHAP president Teodoro Padilla said fake drugs affect the P130-billion pharmaceutical industry not only in terms of financial losses for the manufacturer and the industry itself, but also in terms of public health and safety. “People can die because of counterfeit medicines.”
Menace of counterfeits
Counterfeit medicines, in Filipino “huwad na gamot,” refer to drugs from someone other than the genuine manufacturer, by imitating the original product without authority or right. They may include those popular ones with high demand, lifestyle and patented medicines. These medicines may worsen a disease, increase drug resistance or even kill a patient.
According to PSI-Asia Pacific, China and Japan had the biggest number of incidents involving counterfeit medicines in the region with 712 and 237 cases, respectively. Ahead of the Philippines—which ranked eighth in the Top 10 list and accounted for 50 cases—were Pakistan with 237 incidents; South Korea, 154; Indonesia, 141; India, 108; and Taiwan, 79.
PSI-Asia Pacific director Samson Chiu said the top three fake drugs being sold in the market are cardiovascular, metabolism and anti-infective medicines.
As of 2010, the DOH said that almost 10 percent of medicines in the country are counterfeit. Counterfeit medicines are most commonly found in the National Capital Region, which cornered 49 percent of the cases; followed by Cebu and Laguna, which both tallied 11 percent.
According to Chui, about 90 percent of counterfeit medicines are oral drugs while six and four percent, respectively, are injectable and inhalable drugs. Almost 90 percent of counterfeit medicines in the country came from China and India, he added.
Meanwhile, Cecilia Sison, country coordinator of Medicines Transparency Alliance, said the problem is compounded since some Filipinos don’t appreciate the quality of medicines since they have no access to them.
On the other hand, Lutero said efforts against counterfeit medicines must include the consumers and different stakeholders, like law enforcement agencies and civil society. He added that the public should be more discerning of fake drugs and urged their cooperation in identifying sources and curbing them.
This year, the FDA highlighted three focus areas—vigilance, consumer empowerment and interagency collaboration—for its advocacy against counterfeit medicines.
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