Thursday, April 23, 2009

Khaleej Times: No Country Immune to Menace of Counterfeit Medicines

The following story from the Khaleej Times Online, outlines the overall issue and fight against fake drugs in the UAE. The story in full appears below:

Khaleej Times Online
23 April 2009
DUBAI - Though counterfeit drugs are not readily available in the UAE, they still exist since dealing in fake medicines can be lucrative, say experts.

“In the UAE we don’t see too much, but counterfeit medicines are definitely available. It will always be there. There is big money to be made from dealing in counterfeit medicines and there will always be people who try to exploit this, even if it is at the expense of someone’s life,” he said.

“We are looking at different technologies in the fight against counterfeit medicine,” said Dr Mohammed Abu Elkhair, Head, Pharma/Medicine and Medical Products Regulation Section, Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD).

Providing quality pharmaceutical products to the public is a priority for the health ministries across the region.

“The problem of counterfeit drugs is relevant in the Middle East without being a major cause for concern,” Minister of Health Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Quttami said while inaugurating the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Middle East (PABME) congress and exhibition on Tuesday.

He said the issue is less about fake drugs and more about regulating the market. “Legislation has an important part to play,” he added.

The newly formed Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also aware of the need to maintain a watch over the trade in counterfeit medicines.

Ibrahim Alshowaier, Consultant, SFDA, indicated that a proactive approach should yield best results.

“Counterfeit drugs are a big problem all over the world. It’s not big in Saudi Arabia, but this doesn’t mean we’re immune from the problem. We’re working closely with pharmaceutical companies, the customs people and the police to tackle this issue and maintain vigilance,” he said.

“We’re actively taking measures to block the traffic of counterfeit drugs. For example, we advise customs and the police about what to specifically look for, and we’ll have SFDA personnel operating at border controls and working with the customs officials there. We see this as preventive, and the best way to proceed, rather than targeting the counterfeits once they’re already here,” he added.

However, the UAE Health Minister placed training in the forefront of developing life sciences, specifically the pharmaceutical industry, in
the country.

“The challenges we face in this area are the quality of the industry, and this includes the quality of our human resources available,” he said.

“The people working in this industry need high levels of training, and I think with training, we need to see international practices adopted that will allow us to see solutions developed.

“The pharmaceutical industry will add value to the health services in the country and the region. The economy will benefit also. By providing access to the right level of training, this will be achieved.”

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