Influx of fake drugs worries medical experts

Source: Influx of fake drugs worries medical experts – The Standard

Some of the medicinal drugs being sold on the streets in Harare. Picture: Shepherd Tozvireva

Medical experts in Zimbabwe have called on the authorities to act to stop the proliferation of pharmaceutical drugs on the black market arguing that it is criminal and not safe.

Streets in most major cities are flooded with medicinal drugs that are smuggled into the country from Zambia and South Africa.

Apart from being sold on the streets, smuggled drugs are sold to some privte hospitals and pharmacies.

Investigations by The Standard with support from the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe under the Investigative Journalism Fund showed that the border posts at the dam wall in Kariba and Chirundu were major smuggling routes.

Despite their lack of understanding of the management of medicinal drugs, vendors were selling drugs for chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the investigations revealed.

Family planning pills are among drugs that are also in stock on the black market.

Reacting to the investigation published in The Standard recently, medical experts urged authorities to act and put an end to the medicinal drug black market.

Medical doctor and public health expert Ernest Chikwati said drugs brought from the black market leave a lot to be desired.

“These drugs would not pass through the cold chain system and most of them would have expired,” Chikwati said.

“Some drugs need pharmacy experts who understand drug safety and other issues related to drug administration.”

Chikwati said there should be a system that allows pharmacies and private medical players to import drugs through a monitoring mechanism under the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ).

“By formalising this, it makes drugs cheaper and safe,” he said.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Zimbabwe Association (MDPPZA) president Johannes Marisa confirmed that the black market was awash with falsified medicines.

“Selling fake drugs or selling medicinal drugs is criminal in nature and it is very dangerous,” Marisa said.

“It defeats the whole purpose when somebody takes drugs with the hope of recovering.

“As an organisation, we do not condone such barbaric acts that put lives in danger.

“Fake medicines or these expired drugs may lead to avoidable morbidity, mortality, drug resistance, early death or treatment failure.”

He said his organisation is urging its members not to buy or use drugs that could have been smuggled into the country.

Marisa said MDPPZA would soon engage the responsible authorities following the story that was published in The Standard.

“It is very dangerous to have critical drugs on the black market,” he said.

“As an association, we are going to engage the responsible authorities and find how best we can deal with this.”

The health expert also felt that medicine regulatory authorities in the region, especially in Zambia and Zimbabwe should engage to stop medicinal drug smuggling.

Investigations carried by The Standard also established that the power of the US dollar, found with ease in Zimbabwe, is irresistible to the Indian businesspeople in Zambia, who do not ask questions when the smugglers buy medicine in bulk and without prescription.

When contacted for comment MCAZ public relations officer Davidson Kaiyo said he was yet to go through the drug smuggling exposé published in The Standard.

“I am yet to read the article, and when I go through it, I would be in a position to respond,” he said.

A member of the parliamentarian portfolio committee on budget, finance and economic development Edwin Mushoriwa confirmed rampant smuggling of goods, including medicinal drugs on the border.

He said the drug smuggling syndicates were supported by powerful politicians and senior government workers.

This publication established that apart from selling male enhancement pills, vendors on the streets were selling smuggled medicinal drugs, including Co-trimoxazole, Brufen, Pethidine, Azithromycin, Tenoric-50, Depo-Provera, Doxycycline, Benzylpenicillin and Diazepam, among others. Family planning pills are among drugs that are also in stock on the black market.