Fake medicines rife in Africa

A new study by US scientists, which can be accessed on the Jama Network, has found roughly 19% of the medicines sold in Africa are either sub-standard or outright falsified.

While South Africa was relatively okay compared to the rest of Africa, substandard and falsified medications still account for 8.9% of the medications being sold.

According to the study, “Countries with weak pharmaceutical governance and poor pharmacovigilance are at the greatest risk from substandard or fake medications.”

Substandard medicines are real enough – but they haven’t manufactured to proper quality specifications, they’re shipped in such a way as to kind of ruin them or they’re just expired.

Falsified medication meanwhile is stuff that lies about what it is, what it is made of, or where its from.

The researchers found that anti-malarial drugs were more likely to be falsified or substandard than anti-biotics.

My Take

This is one of those things that I hold against Thabo Mbeki from when he was president.

His AIDS denialism ended up undermining the scientific governance of medication in South Africa in general.

A 2008 study published in African Affairs shows exactly how that played out – with the Medicine Controls Council (MCC) being undermined by then health minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang.

Essentially because of Mbeki’s policy of “African solutions for African problems” – we ended up with a situation where it was increasingly difficult for the MCC to do its job.

Now Mbeki to this day tries to act like he was simply more concerned about other illnesses that he thought were deadlier.

The thing is, what he did on HIV undermined dealing with those other illnesses, because if you promote quack remedies and “traditional healers” for one thing, they’re going to be used for others. Undermining the MCC in this one sphere undermines it completely.

And if it hasn’t been verified by scientific testing we have no way of knowing whether it is effective or not. If you can sabotage the MCC by claiming it is Western or a colonialist institution, you can get away with selling people magical date-rape cream that thankfully doesn’t work.

And tell me that a medicine that “makes your lost love to come back” wouldn’t class as date rape if it actually worked. The very point is to undermine your partner’s ability to give consent.

A lot of people will defend these medicines on cultural identity grounds – the thing is that is one of the best ways to get around critical thought. If it all suddenly becomes a matter of cultural perspectives and identities and all of that, you don’t actually have to produce results.

So you end up with this situation where our governing bodies which are supposed to ensure that what it says on the packet is what you’re getting are undermined.

8.9% doesn’t sound that much next to the near 19% that is the average for the continent, but do you really want an 8.9% risk when taking anti-malarial medication of it not working because its vrot, or it was never the real stuff in the first place?


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