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Counterfeit Medications : Economic, Social Repercussions Abound!

Medications of doubtful quality and dubious origin are peddled in the streets of Cameroonian cities

It is a common phenomenon to see medications of all types being sold on the streets in Cameroon. The drugs, which most often are not only contraband but also counterfeits are peddled even by people with little or no knowledge on medical prescriptions. In fact, drugs are littered in every nook and cranny of major cities and towns of the country as the Cameroon National Council of Pharmaceutical Society holds that 70 per cent of medications sold in Cameroon are traded in the black market.   These medications which include anti-malaria, anti-biotics and pain killers, amongst others, are smuggled into the country through the numerous and porous entry points. The Customs department has been battling with smugglers through its operation “Stop illicit trade” better known by its French acronym HALCOMI.  According to a senior official of the illicit drug control committee who preferred anonymity, even genuine drugs destined for hospitals and pharmacies most often do not follow the right channel as a good consignment is swindled for the black market. The global counterfeit drug trade is said to be a billion dollar business not only in Africa but the world at large. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement said it is working with the International Police (Interpol) to dislodge the criminal network raking in billions of dollars from this cynical trade. 420 tons of counterfeits drugs were seized in West Africa in August 2017 by Interpol to that effect according to WHO. Statistics from the global health organ equally reveal that 30-40 per cent of drugs sold in Africa are counterfeits with the bulk being in sub-Saharan Africa. These drugs are mostly smuggled into the country from India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria.  The greed by peddlers of these illicit drugs has untold consequences not only on the health of the population but also on the national economy and the pharmaceutical industry. WHO says 800,000 people die every year from the consumption of counterfeit medications. Though there are no available statistics on the number of deaths in Cameroon as a result of fake medications, the health hazards including loss of lives cannot be ignored. Despite government’s crackdown on illicit drugs, the phenomenon persist. This is why the Ministry of Public Health and the National Council of Pharmaceutical Society of Cameroon in partnership with a mobile telephone company are sensitising the population through short mobile messages on the dangers roadside medicines, insisting that pharmacies remain the only genuine and safe place to buy drugs.  On the economic standpoint, the repercussions of contraband drugs is a major cause for concern. In April 2017, the Ministry of Mines, Industries and Technological Development revealed that some FCFA 60 billion is lost annually as a result of the phenomenon. Out of this amount, the State treasury loses, about FCFA 12 billion while the rest (18.73 per cent) loss is incurred by the pharmaceutical enterprises. 

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