Curb the cartels behind the trade in fake drugs

Kenyans could buy their way to an early grave. [Courtesy]

The free sale of substandard and counterfeit drugs across the country is quickly becoming a public health crisis. In what has become a dangerous trend, rogue importers are raising money from fake pharmaceuticals while putting Kenyans’ lives at risk.

Once again, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has raised the red flag regarding the sale of fake cough syrups and antibiotics. And last week, agency inspectors impounded drugs valued at 2 million shillings brought into the country through the porous borders. The counterfeits were said to have been transported by people who did not have the required documents and could not explain the origin of the items.

Not so long ago, the board closed 40 unlicensed pharmacies in Nairobi. Similar crackdowns in the counties led to the arrest of drug peddlers and quarks trading in restricted drugs in open-air markets.

At this rate, we have every reason to be worried. While counterfeits still find their way into the market, defying the provisions of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, Kenyans could buy their way to an untimely grave. From fake beauty products to contraceptives, the risk is incalculable. In recent weeks, some dealers have marketed questionable substances as Covid-19 drugs. The quality and safety challenge is more pronounced on prescription drugs.

It is an open secret that the lucrative pharmaceutical industry, with an annual turnover of more than 300 billion shillings, has been infiltrated by cartels and illegal importers who are trying to deceive the system. More worrying, however, are the government’s claims of appeasement, leading to questionable accreditation of practitioners and importation outside the law.

We call on the board of directors and other regulators to be vigilant. Illegal outlets and the obscure characters behind them should be rescued. Practitioners guilty of poor work ethics should also be treated. Leave the agencies mandated to regulate the practice of harmonized operations to ensure efficiency. Life is sacrosanct and no one should put lives in danger on the altar of profit.

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