Fight The Fakes

Speak up about fake medicines.

Stories from the Front Line

Taking action to stop the rising threat of fake medicines in Uganda

Dr. Thomas Egwang |

Taking action to stop the rising threat of fake medicines in Uganda
Godfrey Muzuji examining malaria slides on a microscope at Med Biotech Laboratories, where Dr. Egwang is Senior Scientist.

Update: Dr. Thomas Egwang has launched a campaign, EquipmentAgainstFakes, to help raise funds for his lab’s purchasing of equipment for detecting fake medicines. Click here to see what you can do to help!

My name is Dr. Thomas Egwang, and I am the Senior Scientist at Med Biotech Laboratories in Uganda.

I have been on a combination of two anti-hypertensive drugs for the past ten years. These drugs have their own side effects. I have lost two relatives who died from complications arising from multiple strokes while on medication. My feeling at the time of their deaths was that they probably did not take their drugs as faithfully as they should have. Now, I think that they were probably not taking the right medications. But I have no proof.

With my increasing awareness about the danger of fake medicines, which are everywhere, I worry now about the quality and safety of blood pressure medicines that I take daily.  I take my blood pressure readings now on a weekly basis to avoid any surprises, because dangerously high blood pressure can creep up on you without you being aware.

But my worst fears are about our two little girls whenever they have malaria. Although they are older than five years and should be out of danger of severe malaria, I fret whenever they are taking Coartem.  Thirty percent of antimalarials in Uganda are fake!

There is no class of medicine which is safe for the family, from blood pressure medicines, pain killers like Panadol we use to treat fever to flu medicines, contraceptives, cough syrup, etc.

When you go to the pharmacy, the dispenser gives you the option of choosing a drug from Cyprus, UK, Germany, India, or China.  Drugs from Europe cost twice as much as those from Asia. We often choose the more expensive European drugs—but this might be no safeguard at all. Counterfeiters are probably already on to the open secret that the African middle class go for European drugs, and imitate these medicines just as they would any others. But the urban or rural poor have fewer choices, and buy the cheapest drugs for their families, sometimes off the street rather than in a pharmacy.

I have operated the Med Biotech for the past 18 years. Our research is focussed on malaria vaccines studies in collaboration with Professor Toshihiro Horii of Osaka University and Dr. Hastings Ozwara at the Institute of Primate Research in Kenya. The latter collaboration focuses on innovations of vaccine or drug delivery during pregnancy in a non-human primate model. Our research has played a key role in bringing a key malaria blood stage vaccine candidate into human clinical trials in Northern Uganda.

Rather than just continue worrying about the safety of medicines, I am planning to add analytical chemistry capacity to the lab to be able to identify fake medicines and what they contain. This will involve testing random drug samples from remote communities outside the reach of National Drug Authority (NDA) and submitting test results to NDA for action.We will complement any existing mobile phone-based drug validation system.

This will be our way of contributing to the Fight the Fakes campaign.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Back to List

Criminals trafficking #fakemeds make profits 10x more than those trafficking illicit drugs

700,000 people die because of #fakemeds to treat #malaria & #TB each year

Up to 40% of the drug supply of some countries in Africa could be #fakemeds

On internet sites that conceal their physical address 50% of the drugs are #fakemeds

#DidYouKnow? Possession of #fakemeds is illegal, not just production or sale

NIH 2012 study of 7 countries in southeast Asia reveals that 36% of #antimalarials are #fakemeds

#Fakemeds can contain no active ingredients at all – a direct threat to patients that need treatment

Decades of fighting #malaria could be put at risk by #fakemeds on the market

#Fakemeds: 32% have no active ingredients, 40% have incorrect ingredients & dose, 8.5% contain dangerous contaminants

60% of all spam offers medicine- its an inexpensive way for #counterfeiters to target you with #fakemeds.

#DidYouKnow? 96% of online pharmacies operate illegally

From antibiotics to pain relievers, more than 500 versions of fake #pharmaceutical products are circulating #fakemeds

.@UNODC estimates the market value of fake #antimalarials at over US$400mil in west Africa alone

Up to 30% of medicines in developing countries are #fakemeds

#fakemeds are 10% to 30% of global medicine: less than 1% in some countries, +30% in parts of Africa Asia & Latin America

20% of all #malaria deaths worldwide can be directly associated with the use of #fakemeds

In 2013, Operation #Biyela seized 550 million doses of illicit medicine in #Africa

In 2013 1.2 million sachets of #fakemeds were seized in Le Havre, France. The biggest seizure in the #EU

In 2013 US authorities published warning of fake #diabetes meds—ineffective & dangerous for patients

In the US only 4% of online pharmacies appear to be in compliance with pharmacy laws & practice standards

#Fakemeds seized during #Biyela? Antibiotics, painkillers, meds for high blood pressure & diabetes

#Fakemeds seized in Le Havre in May 2013 were hidden in sachets of tea

#fakemeds could be up to 15% of medicines in circulation worldwide

36% of #anti-malarial drugs in #SoutheastAsia are #fakemeds

India may have as much as 12-25% of their supply contaminated with substandard and #fakemeds

Every therapeutic class of pharmaceutical product has been the subject of #counterfeiting

123 countries are impacted by #fakemeds

1 medicine in 2 purchased on internet sites that conceal their physical address is a #fakemed

Both branded and generic products are subject to counterfeiting

Poisons found in #fakemeds include mercury, rat poison, boric acid, paint & antifreeze

More than 50% of medicine sold worldwide from illegal online sources are #fakemeds

30% of countries have little or no regulation to effectively combat #fakemeds

2011: European Customs retained 27.5 million #fakemeds

Of the 1mil deaths per year due to #malaria, 200,000 could be avoided if patients weren't treated with #fakemeds

1 out of 4 counterfeit products intercepted by EU customs in 2011 were #fakemeds

.@INTERPO_HQ L Operation #PangeaVI seized 9.8 million illegal & counterfeit drugs #fakemeds