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In our world today, fake commodities are the norm. Walking around the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, one can come across many counterfeit designer items going for less than two dollars. It does not just apply to global brands but local brands as well. Up until two years ago, I had encountered all these fakes but one; medicines.
My experience with falsified medicine was quite a brutal one.
I normally get severe period cramps, so bad I have to get a painkiller injection, sometimes a day before my due date. One time in 2018, I decided to get tablets instead because the pain had just started. I took the maximum dose of the painkillers just before going to bed only to wake up about three hours later in the dead of the night severely nauseated and in so much pain that I was vomiting so hard. The pain was unbearable, I had a fever and I had no other medication in the house. It was too late in the night to leave the house to go a pharmacy, but I also lived too far to even dare leave the house. Early the next morning, I bought the same drug from a different outlet and took the same dose and in half an hour, voila! I was feeling much better.
It was beyond a doubt that I had taken pure chalk the previous night. The pill that ought to have brought me relief was indeed poisonous.
This experience reminded me of my father who lived with epilepsy, my grandmother who takes daily anti-hypertensives, my friend who has diabetes, and the many children who contract malaria every day. What if they had swallowed chalk at the most critical moment?
Kenya, as is the case in many developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, faces a big health problem of substandard and falsified medicines.
Even more worrying, is the fact that Africa faces a heavy burden of infectious diseases, for which resistance is building fast. As a trained pharmacist, I am aware of the risk that this poses on the health of individuals. This is the source of my motivation to be part of the fight against substandard and counterfeit medicines. One of my current goals is to build a smart technology-based solution to help the rapid and affordable detection of falsified medicines in my country and the world at large.
This, unlike other fights, is a quest not just for patient safety and health equality, it is above all a pursuit for justice. Justice for all the lives lost, all the livelihoods stolen, and all pain endured by individuals, courtesy of substandard and falsified medicines.
About Nelly: She is currently studying Medical Physiology at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She is a lover of life, passionate about exercise, mental health and poetry. You can follow her on Twitter @nellyflashier, and Facebook @Nelly Flashier.
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