Counterfeit drugs in the UAE – GulfToday feat. Dr. Jacobs

DUBAI: The surest way to obtain genuine medicines and other medical products is to purchase from authorised pharmacies.

By Gulf Today, Mariecar Jara-Puyod, June 01, 2015

A small community mall pharmacist who requested anonymity said Ministry of Health (MoH) personnel conduct periodic checks to ensure that no counterfeit or falsely labeled and falsified drugs make their way to the shelves. Prime Hospital-Dubai clinical pharmacist Muhammad Amir emailed to The Gulf Today, “While buying their medication, consumers should keep in mind the place where they are buying the medications and from whom they are buying.” “It is much easier to introduce counterfeit medication in local small pharmacies than in large or hospital pharmacies. It is best to check with a professional pharmacist who is more conscious of which medications to keep,” he added. From Swiss drug firm Roche UAE country manager Abed Sabra, “Counterfeit medicines are mostly offered for sale by unlicensed sources. The company recommends buying prescription only medicines exclusively from trusted sources such as doctors or authorised pharmacies.”

German Neuroscience Centre neurologist Dr. Heike Jacobs said consumer vigilance is the key.

“It is sad. Patients believe they are treating their illnesses whilst they are just taking placebo or toxic substance,” she said. According to Jacobs, to be on the safe side, the public must be wary of the “look, taste and smell” of the medicines. “Are there new side effects, do these stop working, also check the packaging,” Jacobs also said. On packaging, Amir said, “Fake medications are very much similar to the original, even hard for a pharmacist to recognise the difference. However, it is suggested that any change in colour of the packaging or pill or tablet should be taken in to account.” Amir and Jacobs said it is the buyers’ right to have the medicines “changed” if they are doubtful.

Dubai Neurologist Jacobs

Jacobs said, “If you have a concern, communicate it with your doctor, pharmacist and the pharmaceutical company.” The Gulf Today got in touch with representatives from the medical community regarding counterfeit/substandard/spurious/falsely labeled/falsified medicines and medical products as the MoH has been actively campaigning on these and it has repeatedly cautioned the public with regards buying from the Internet. Last April, the UAE hosted an international symposium on counterfeit drugs wherein officials from the US Food and Drug Administration as well as from the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) disclosed the global extent of the crime against public health. They identified China and India as the major sources of fake drugs.

Meanwhile, from Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), “The countries most affected from BI’s point of view are Latin America as well as the Middle East and Far East Asia. At present, there are about 15 to 20 confirmed counterfeit cases a year worldwide.” These are consumer health care products and prescription medicine. “In 2013, we confirmed counterfeit cases in Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines, Spain (animal health) and Taiwan. Further, we saw the diversion of original BI products all over the world.” The German pharmaceutical company is among the multi-national drug manufacturers working closely with the Interpol for the combat against counterfeit medicines. “However, BI remains with concerns that repackaging operations continue to be allowed, as this is an interruption of the supply chain and represents a risk for product safety.”