LAHORE - Like previous regimes, the present government is sleeping over dirty business of counterfeit drugs, putting the health and lives of people at risk.

Though counterfeit drugs is a global phenomenon, the problem is severe in Pakistan as there is no mechanism of random sampling of drugs from pharmacies and testing on regular basis. Besides that, pharmaceutical companies show little or even no interest in ensuring that fake drugs are not sold in the name of original ones.

For their convenience and earning extra profit, pharmacies in suburbs or less developed areas usually avoid ‘regular supply chain’ and purchase drugs from unauthorised dealers: majority of them marketing counterfeit drugs. The public at large is the ultimate sufferer as even doctors could not differentiate between the real and counterfeit drugs. In developed countries like the US and UK, counterfeit drugs reach consumers through convenient source of online shopping. In Pakistan, these are being sold at pharmacies, especially those in small cities and on the outskirts of major cities.

According to a report of World Health Organisation (WHO), around 30-40 per cent drugs in Pakistan’s medical stores are counterfeit or fake. Almost all types of forged drugs are being sold all over the country. The WHO report also ranked Pakistan on the 13th number among countries that produce fake drugs. These fake drugs are recommended for ailments from flu to cancer. Sale of these fake medicines is spreading multiple diseases. A large amount of these false medicines are being manufactured in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. Research shows that either these fake medicines couldn’t improve health or they harmed patients.

“Counterfeit medicines are playing havoc with public health and even lives are at greater risk. As it is difficult for doctors and public at large to differentiate fake and original drugs, the responsibilities of government and other stakeholders get multidimensional increase. Not only the government but also other stakeholders are not fulfilling their responsibilities and the poor are the ultimate sufferer”, said YDA Punjab Spokesman Dr Amer Bandesha, adding, the problem has affected the credibility of the healthcare system and could exert harmful effects on the consumer resulting into illness; disability and even death.

“Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) is doing nothing except giving licenses to pharmaceutical companies, registering drugs and increasing prices. There is no mechanism of carrying out random sampling of drugs from the market and their analysis at Drug Testing Laboratory. There are over 70,000 registered drugs in Pakistan and their numbers in other countries are merely 4,000. Pharmaceutical companies are also not fulfilling their responsibility of regularly carrying out survey of market and random sampling. With the exception of leading pharmacy chains, medical stores avoid regular supply chain and collect drugs from unauthorised dealers. It increases chances of getting counterfeit or fake drugs”, Dr Bandesha said.