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Counterfeit drugs put Bulawayo residents' lives at risk

by Staff Reporter
04 Jan 2013 at 06:08hrs | Views
HUNDREDS of Bulawayo residents risk suffering from health complications and adverse reactions due to the proliferation of counterfeit drugs on the streets and unregistered outlets, health experts have warned.

According to the latest council report, the city's director of health services, Dr Zanele Hwalima, said the influx of uncertified medicinal products has become a cause for concern for the city's health professionals.

Dr Hwalima said urgent measures should be taken to establish the source of such drugs.

Debating during the full council meeting in Bulawayo on Wednesday, councillors also expressed concern over the issue and called for sterner measures to bring the perpetrators to book in order to protect members of the public.

"Public health providers in the city are concerned about the widespread illegal sales of medicines in the city. The source of these medicines remains unknown and should be investigated," said Dr Hwalima in the report.

"Residents are suspected to be fuelling this cancer through buying from such outlets."

Dr Hwalima urged residents to desist from buying unauthorised medicines saying that posed a health hazard.

"Residents are exposing themselves to the risk of potential fatal side effects from illegal medicines given and adverse reactions and poor storage leading to loss of potency. The competency of the prescriber is also not known," she said.

Dr Hwalima said the council was planning to run joint awareness campaigns with Mpilo Central Hospital to warn residents about the dangers of buying drugs from illegal outlets.

Ward 25 Councillor Edward Ndlovu said several people who claimed to be working for a Chinese firm had approached him seeking permission to sell medicines.

He asked whether there were any council by-laws governing the sale of imported medicines by unregistered and unknown sources.

The councillor for Ward Five, Dr John Ferguson, a renowned city medical doctor, said it was the responsibility of the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) to test and provide certification for medicines they deemed fit for use.

He said concerted efforts were needed to stop the influx of untested drugs and medicines in the country.

Ward Six Clr Jennifer Bent urged residents to report to the police anyone found selling uncertified medicines.

Contacted for comment yesterday, the deputy president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe (PSZ) Mr Sikhumbuzo Mpofu, said the sale of uncertified drugs was rife in the informal sector.

"We concur with the city council. Most of these drugs are sold in flea markets, street pavements and beer halls. They include some funny capsules and some skin lightening creams and powders.

"Members of the public should stop buying any medicinal drugs from uncertified outlets as this is tantamount to gambling with their own lives," said Mr Mpofu.

"Authorised drug dealers should register with the council's health directorate, have a licence from the MCAZ and obtain a premises' licence. The personnel working for a particular outlet must also be registered and licensed with the Health Professions Authority of Zimbabwe and with the PSZ," said Mr Mpofu.

He urged residents to guard against being duped into buying cheap counterfeit drugs on the streets.

Mr Mpofu said members of the public should only seek assistance from registered pharmacies who would give them specific prescriptions and proper advice on how to use the medicines.

This, he said, was important in ensuring that patients do not fall prey to acquisition of counterfeit drugs.

"The sale of medicines the world over is strictly regulated and controlled because we are talking about people's lives here. That is why we are saying all medicines and those who deal with them must be registered.

"Those who buy from illegal outlets risk being given a wrong prescription and this can cause resistance to treatment. Authorities should invade these illegal outlets and confiscate all uncertified drugs," said Mr Mpofu.

An official from the MCAZ who declined to be named requested to have questions in writing before commenting on the issue.

However, last month MCAZ said it was aware of the rampant sale of uncertified drugs in the country. The authority had said it was working closely with the police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) drug section to stamp out the practice.

Comment could not be obtained from the CID drug section.
Source - TC