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African Leaders, Chirac Unite To Fight Fake Drug Manufacturing, Distribution

Leaders from Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Congo-Republic, Niger and Senegal on Monday joined former French President Jacques Chirac in Cotonou, Benin, in a campaign against the manufacturing and sale of fake pharmaceutical products, Reuters reports (Lewis, 10/12).

“While counterfeit drugs are a relatively small problem in the U.S. and Europe – found mainly as ‘lifestyle medicines’ purchased over the internet – some studies have suggested that most malaria drugs and other essential treatments for serious illnesses in parts of Africa and Asia are fake and killing patients,” the Financial Times writes.

“Informal co-operation is not enough,” Chirac said in a written statement. “Fake medicines have become a real market that is poised to overtake that for narcotics. It is essential to mobilise all parts of society.” During the meeting, the leaders planned to appeal to the U.N. to “fight fake medicines by imposing tough penalties, strengthening manufacturing and distribution controls and improving awareness,” the newspaper writes (Jack, 10/12).

ISRIA reports that in a statement by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon read during the meeting, Ban said, “We must join forces to fight this global crime for the sake of international public health.” He “added that individuals are not the only ones who suffer, noting that counterfeit medical products undermine the credibility of health systems, waste resources and diminish confidence in the authorities responsible for public safety,” the news service writes (10/12).

“Falsified medicines are especially prevalent in developing countries; the WHO estimates that up to 30% of drugs sold in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America are fake, including ones used to fight diseases like malaria and tuberculosis,” TIME writes. The article examines the deaths of patients around the world who unknowingly took counterfeit drugs and the recent efforts by countries to halt fake-drug-trafficking.

“The major pharmaceutical companies have been at the forefront of the campaign to crack down on the problem,” TIME writes, with most tracking illegal drug-trafficking that they pass along to law enforcement agencies, among other efforts. For instance, Merck recently began “funding the distribution of minilabs in developing countries to improve detection of fake ingredients in drugs used to combat malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.”

The article also explains how countries such as India and Brazil have been resistant to efforts against counterfeit drug manufacturing and distribution, fearful that they will somehow target the countries’ legal generic drug trade, and how Chirac’s initiative aims to alleviate such fears (Gumbel, 10/8).