Source: Business Daily
By GEORGE OMONDI
Tuesday, March 20 2012 at 20:28
Global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is distributing mobile detectors of fake drugs in a move aimed at halting trade in counterfeits, which has considerably eaten into its market in Africa.
The company on Tuesday donated a portable scanning machine worth Sh4.8 million ($60,000) to be used by the Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) inspectors at border points, just days after donating one to Ghana’s Food and Drug Authority.
The company’s executives said a similar device would soon be introduced in Uganda following the success of mobile fake drugs detectors in Nigeria.
“This is part of our contribution to fighting medicine counterfeiting in Kenya and Africa,” said Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer’s managing director for Nigeria, Ghana and East Africa.
The multinational hopes the efficiency of the scanning device –TruScan – will influence the poorly funded regulatory agencies to order for more, at least one for each entry point.
By Tuesday afternoon, the machine had not been cleared by customs officials at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. However, the Pfizer officials showed journalists a photograph of the device.
In Kenya, the Anti-Counterfeit Agency only confiscates drugs after receiving complaints from customs officials who normally base their assessment on suspicious physical attributes.
Experienced counterfeiters, however, beat physical inspections easily as they produce exact copies of genuine products.
Before the offender is penalised, the agency has to wait for weeks for PPB to test samples of the confiscated medicines in its labs.
TruScan has a memory that is already programmed with the chemical composition of every genuine drug, making it possible to detect even the slightest deviation in real time when a sample is passed through it. As such, the drug is tested just by scanning and left intact as inspectors do not have to interfere with its wrappings.
“We hope PPB will use this machine to reduce incidence of counterfeits which has risen sharply in the Kenyan market,” said Mr Liggeri.
While both the industry and regulatory bodies agree that counterfeiting is a serious problem in Kenya that requires concerted efforts to address, they differ sharply on its extent.
Local drug manufacturers maintain that one in every three drugs on the counters are fake, but Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) – a lobby for local stockists – say that just between 2 to 5 per cent of drugs on sale is affected.
“We have had no independent study in this country. As far as we know, manufacturers tend to classify any drug not from their factories – including generic and substandard ones – as counterfeits,” Mr Paul Mwaniki, the PSK chairman who is also a PPB board member said, as he received the TruScan.The device, he added, will complement the lobby’s efforts which include branding trained pharmacists and closing illegal ones which have cropped up in almost all towns of Kenya.