Essential medicines and health products

What measure should countries take to combat the problem?

Several measures need to be taken to combat the problem.

At national level governments must:

  • improve the availability and affordability of medicines;
  • enact deterrent legislation prohibiting the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution and sale of counterfeit medicines;
  • establish or strengthen NMRA by clearly setting out its power, duties and responsibilities;
  • provide the necessary human, financial and other resources to the NMRA;
  • train NMRA personnel, including enforcement officers in the detection and investigation of counterfeit drugs;
  • foster cooperation between NMRA and other national law enforcement agencies such as police, customs, and the judiciary;
  • ensure that personnel working in national medicine regulation and those involved in the detection and investigation of counterfeit medicines sign conflict of interest forms;
  • ensure that the medicine legislation is enforced;
  • ensure that courts speedily dispose of cases involving counterfeit medicines and that sentences passed by the judiciary reflect the seriousness of the problem and the offence;
  • ensure that counterfeit medicines are confiscated and destroyed.

National medicine regulatory authorities must:

  • ensure that all medicine manufacturing, importation, exportation and distribution activities are carried out in premises approved by the NMRA, and that individuals and companies engaged have licence to operate such activities;
  • inspect medicine establishments regularly to ensure that they comply with national medicine regulatory requirements;
  • ensure that all medicines are assessed and authorized before they are introduced to the market;
  • define the ports of entry for medicines and starting materials used for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products;
  • control importation of finished pharmaceutical products and starting materials by issuing import permits and inspecting consignments at points of entry as necessary;
  • inspect the informal market to prevent any illegal trade in medicines;
  • monitor the quality of medicines on the market to detect and prevent any substandard and counterfeit medicines from reaching the public;
  • Work closely with national law enforcement agencies such as the policy and custom officers
  • inform the public about the problem of counterfeit medicines and educate and advise them to buy medicines from NMRA authorized sources rather than from peddlers and hawkers or from market places and streets;
  • encourage and advise consumers to report to their prescribers or physicians any lack of improvement in their health status in spite of the treatment or any adverse reactions experienced;
  • foster bilateral and multilateral agreements with other countries, in particular with countries sharing common borders to prevent cross boarder trade and smuggling;
  • seek international cooperation with organizations such as WHO, Interpol, the World Customs Organization.

Consumers should:

  • buy medicines only from licensed pharmacies and medicine outlets;
  • be suspicious of heavily discounted medicines;
  • do not buy from peddlers or market places;
  • insist to get receipts when buying medicines;
  • check packaging carefully if it is properly sealed;
  • check if the packaging indicates the batch number, manufacturing date, expiry date, and the manufacturer's name
  • report to your health worker or doctors any lack of improvement after taking a medicine.

At international level:

Counterfeiting of medicines is now a global issue affecting all countries. Therefore in order to combat the problem effectively:

  • there should timely exchange of information on counterfeit medicines between, medicine regulatory authorities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, national law enforcement officers, international organizations such WHO, Interpol, World Custom Organization
  • there should be more cooperation between all interested parties to develop harmonized measures to prevent the spread of counterfeit medicines globally; cooperation would improve if all countries adopt a common definition of counterfeit medicines;
  • a global mechanism similar to the one used to control narcotic drugs should be created to control trade in counterfeit medicines. Counterfeit drugs not only affect the sick and innocent consumers but also the general public and deserve more attention.