Monday, 24 December 2012

Boiling over - Africa's counterfeit drug problem highlighted again

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has published a piece on how counterfeit drugs from Asia are endangering lives in Africa. The information is not significantly different from that contained in posts  already on this blog. However, it is a reminder that counterfeiting is Africa's single biggest IP problem:

"It's a massive problem that people have simply ignored. It's not like a boil that's beginning to burst because it's been a problem for a long time. What has happened is we are beginning to recognise it more." (Nick White quoted)

Of course it is much wider than just an IP problem but effective IP policies and enforcement are key steps to managing and combating this issue. A number of countries in Africa (eg Kenya) are adopting specific anti-counterfeit legislation. Kenyan AC laws have had to endure scrutiny from the their Courts because they were perceived to restrict access to legitimate drugs. Getting the legislation right is not an easy task and requires considerable thought, consultation and discussion. However, the need for that is glaringly urgent not just on the African continent but also in places where the counterfeit drugs are produced.

The Guardian article, like many, places much blame on China for allowing such vast numbers of counterfeit products to be made for sale on the continent. 

"Patrick Lukulay, vice president of the US Pharmacopeial Convention's global health impact programmes, said it was no secret that the majority of dangerous medications came from China and India, as those countries had the world's largest production bases for both active ingredients and finished drugs."

There is a perception that Chinese laws are completely ineffective in halting the problem. Whilst that may not be entirely correct it is interesting that China's approach to drug smuggling (as opposed to the more dangerous illicit drug production) is extreme - a year ago, Janice Linden (an African) was executed in China for the deed. Afro Leo is not calling for the death penalty for producers of fake drugs in China but if the effect of fake drugs from China in Africa is any indication of how seriously China should be treating the problem in its own country, then Afro Leo would welcome much more effort from them in dealing with it. Perhaps, with the increasing number of Chinese companies and people living in Africa, the effect of counterfeit drugs will become more notable. 


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