IMANI’s attention has been drawn to the perennial problem of counterfeit medicines in the country. IMANI has been championing the urgency to consider alternative systems of sifting genuine medicines from counterfeit ones and effectively tracing their source. Based on our previous and current research on this trend, we believe this issue presents a serious challenge to the pharmaceutical industry and to public health in general and needs serious attention from all stakeholders.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 30% of drugs are compromised in West Arica. The pace at which this illegitimate industry is growing is also alarming. Worldwide, it is estimated that there is a 13 percent annual growth rate, twice as fast as the growth of legitimate drugs. Ghana is not a different case. The Food and Drugs Board (FDB) has warned of the presence of counterfeit versions of the anti-malarial drug, artesunate, on the market. This recent report on counterfeit drugs is not the only one. Several studies have found frightening levels of substandard medication in the national drug supply chain. IMANI recalls the mass widespread withdrawal of antimalarial drug, coartem, from several pharmacies and licensed chemical shops in Kumasi. We also recall the 2008 study carried out by researchers of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). The study reported that 82% of sampled artesunate drugs being sold in pharmacies in Kumasi were not up to EU standards or guidelines.
Ghana cannot afford fire-fighting this menace whilst people are dying from faked drugs. The country is increasingly risking the security of her public health. Fortunately, technologies exist to fight the scourge. Although some technologies like the hologram system have been easily breeched on countless occasions, there are other innovative and robust yet cheaper ways to fight counterfeits. IMANI proposes the mPedigree approach as one such solution. mPedigree provides ease with verifying medicines. The system is widely accessible through basic text messaging, requires no specialist equipment or training, and is free to access for consumers but at a fraction of the price of holograms. We should begin to fight substandard drugs using effective methods.