Reduce costs of genuine medicines to curb fake drug business

Reduce costs of genuine medicines to curb fake drug business

Cases of hospitalisation reported after people consumed fake food supplements smuggled into the UAE, say experts

By Asma Ali Zain - Deputy Chief Reporter

Published: Wed 22 Apr 2015, 12:51 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:22 PM

Dubai — Lowering prices of genuine medicines could curb the thriving online fake drugs business, suggested officials during an international conference held on Monday.

The Emirates International Conference on Combating Drug Counterfeiting in Dubai on Monday discussed people falling prey to quick fixes and cheap alternatives. — Supplied photo 

Despite strict monitoring by authorities in the UAE, and closure of at least 20 such websites by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) over the past year, online businesses thrive as people fall prey to quick fixes and cheap alternatives as the counterfeit medication trade grows into a $100 billion industry.

“People will try to cheat and take benefit of the high prices so I suggest that the pharmaceutical industry coordinate with local authorities and consider lowering drug prices ... this could, in turn, curb the online trade,” said Dr Tawfik Khoja, Director General Executive Board, Health Ministers’ Council for Cooperation Council States, Saudi Arabia.

Officials also urged people to stop trusting online sources for buying drugs as a few cases of hospitalisation were reported in 2013 and 2014 after people consumed fake food supplements smuggled into the UAE.

“We don’t know the exact number of those with complications since the cases are admitted in different hospitals across the country,” said Dr Amin Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing Sector at the Ministry of Health during the Emirates International Conference on Combating Drug Counterfeiting held in Dubai for the first time. “But these were all linked to people who had bought the food supplements online,” he said.

“And this is why it is important for people to buy medicines from trusted sources,” he said. He also said that above 95 per cent of medicines sold online are by illegal companies who are not registered in any country.

Most products sold online include food supplements, medicines for hypertension and diabetes, weight loss and erectile dysfunction drugs.

“We do not know the source of these medicines, the ingredients or even the conditions in which they have been packed,” he said, adding that most drugs were found be originating from China and India.

Misuse of prescription drugs and smuggling of controlled drugs such as Tramadol also poses a concern for UAE. At least 113 cases of deaths were reported in the country due to misuse of prescription drugs, according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said Col Saeed Abdulla Al Suwaidi, Director General of Federal General Department of Anti Narcotics, Ministry of Interior.

He said that in 2014, 3,500 people were arrested for misuse of prescription drugs of which 46 per cent were related to narcotics. 

In 2014, at least 40,000 tramadol shipments meant for the UAE were caught while 231,397 other drugs being brought into the country through ships were caught. “This year, we expect an increase despite the measures to control,” he added. The seized products are sent to the judicial department for disposal.

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