Friday, December 18, 2009

Ministry Plans Ban on Re-export of Medicines

The UAE is taking measures to combat counterfeit drugs. One of those measures is to ban re-exportation of medication.

An article published this week in Khaleej Times quotes prominent industry and regulatory leaders on the scope of the counterfeit drug trade in the Middle East, the challenges, and current initiatives to combat it.

Below are some key fact listed in the article:

The scope of the counterfeit drug trade and seizures in the Middle East

  • Nearly one per cent of the fake medicines detected in the European Union comes from the UAE, said Dr Amin Al Amiri, CEO, Medical Practice and License at the UAE Health Ministry

  • During the first five months of 2008, Dubai Customs seized and destroyed 293 tonnes of counterfeit medical products.

  • During 2006-2008, the UAE ranked sixth in the region with 36 numbers of raids in which counterfeit medicines were seized. Israel topped the list of 10 countries with 162 raids. “Four other incidents in the UAE discovered goods that were being diverted to another country,” said Ashley How, regional director for Pharmaceutical Security Institute.

  • In 2008, $3.1 million worth of Pfizer counterfeit drugs were seized in the region. “It is not only expensive drugs that are duplicated but even common ones such as Ponstan,” said Steve Allen, Pfizer’s senior director for 
Global Security. “This is because people would prefer buying a drug from a known company rather than an unknown,” he said, adding that 30 of the company’s well known drugs including Viagra, Ponstan, Xanax and weight loss drug Lipitor had 
been copied.

Dependence on imports are a challenge

  • The expanded volume of imported medical products and medicinal ingredients is a challenge for the country, said Dr Mohammed Abu Elkhair, Head of Pharma/Medicine and Medical Products Regulation Section, Health Authority of Abu Dhabi.

  • Only 20 per cent of the medicines needed in the UAE are manufactured locally, thus increasing a chance of counterfeit trade. “Only increased penalties as proposed in the law can help curb the trade,” he said.

  • Quoting a recently held study in Abu Dhabi, Dr Elkhair said only 40-50 per cent of the registered medicines are available in the country.

Current Initiatives

  • The UAE will soon end re-exporting of medicinal drugs from its ports to curb a growing regional trade in counterfeit products, according to a senior health official.

  • The Health Ministry has also increased raids and inspections and toughened punishments against violators. “Two doctors have recently been blacklisted GCC-wide while in 2008 we closed two factories. This year, 35 pharmacies have been shut down for selling fake drugs,” said Dr Amin Al Amiri.

  • Other measures taken by the ministry include quality control analysis, inclusion of new technologies to identify fake medicines, tougher imports control, and advertisement control.

To view the article in its entirety, visit:

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