Kenyans’ health is at stake due to the prevalence of unregulated medicines in the market, a survey by the Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) shows.
KAPI says the unregulated drugs present a greater risk of deficiencies and poor efficacy due to potentially incorrect storage by the middle-men, products intended for other climates and languages that are not understood by the consumers in the country including Arabic and Turkish.
“Consumers should avoid drugs that are not written in English or Swahili,” stated Dr John Lehmann from Infospective Research Limited.
Elaborating further, he stated that the most affected product was the one treating high blood pressure with 38 per cent having entered the country illegally. This has been attributed to the fact that there is prolonged use of the product by the patients hence the consumption and demand is high.
“The study was undertaken among 160 practicing retailers in the major cities, with Nairobi and Nakuru the most vulnerable areas in the survey,” stated Dr Lehmann, who was the principal investigator. This is due to the fact that the distribution channels along the cities are cheaper and faster than in rural areas. Researchers from the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine also took part.
Unregulated or gray medicines are those that have entered the market through irregular channels and have not undergone the necessary regulatory scrutiny and market conformity by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
To curb the prevalence of such products, KAPI chairperson Dr Anastasia Nyalita said they have beefed up market surveillance efforts as they continue to undertake wider studies to ascertain full extent of the current challenge in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.
“Such products unlike those imported through official channels pose a grave danger to the patients using them as their efficacy and quality remains questionable. Following the study, KAPI is optimistic that these findings will serve as a basis for broad discussion among to further enhance the regulation while raising awareness among the general public,” said Nyalita.
“Users should help us in fighting this by verifying the official pharmacies by texting the registration code on the stickers and ask whether the products have been imported through official channels,” she added.
The International Institute for Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) has also promised to start investigating cargo containers identified as likely to contain illicit or counterfeit pharmaceutical products posing a dangerous threat to local population.