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Counterfeit drugs in Pakistan, who will pay the heed?

Medical experts state that counterfeit medicines trafficking are a very dangerous challenge that impacts both developed and undeveloped nations. Globally, various organizations are implementing procedures to detect these counterfeits, and the Government of Pakistan is pushing to enact laws to punish those who are profiting from this crime.

However, in the end, it would take the cooperation of all states working together to solve this rising threat to worldwide public health. Counterfeit medicines are typically of dubious quality; they may be contaminated with unsafe fillers or have the wrong ingredients or not enough active ingredient or fake packaging. These medicines are also fake medicines as they rip-off an original product. The medical experts are also mentioned that these medicines bypass tough safety and quality controls that apply to legitimate products so the person taking them has no assurances that the medicine is safe to take and puts their health at risk as a consequence. Falsification of medicines is an underground phenomenon and hard to get accurate numbers on.

According to most reliable sources, the proportion of such medicines on the international market is approximately 7 percent and up to 50 percent in some Asian and African states.

In Pakistan, the doctors also reveal that even though Insulin is very necessary to treat various deadly diseases, the circulation of fake medicine continuous to be in the medical stores and thus threaten scores of lives every day. It is surprising that the Government of Pakistan is not fully paying any heed to this critical situation. Different sources also mentioned that the business of fake insulin is being excessively used in Balochistan, which continues to play havoc with lives of fragile patients. Presently in Turbat, many cases have been spotted; in which fake insulin is being supplied under the name of famous company. Furthermore, in developed states special focus is given on checking the quality of raw material, but in our country there is no system to check the quality of raw material.

Currently the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has instructed nine pharmaceutical firms to recall medicines of high blood pressure, manufactured by them, as contaminated raw material used in these medicines can cause cancer. In the country 95 percent medicines are made with imported raw material but there is no procedure to check the quality of raw material. Unluckily, companies get licenses, for imports, by paying a few hundred rupees and start importing raw material. Pakistani pharmaceutical industry dates back to 1959. The country has approximately 600 manufacturing units organized by the domestic business community and multinational firms.


Detecting a fake

Because the burden of detection and reporting lies mainly with the pharmaceutical firms, most have taken initiatives to mark their medications so they can be identified against counterfeit versions. Some of the methods used to differentiate real medications include holograms, embossing, special ink and two-dimensional bar codes. However, many of these methods have proved to be easily copied through counterfeiters like invisible ink, which can be easily reproduced with any standard printer. And, some of these methods require special training to read the marking and to be able to tell a real from a fake.

Unluckily, consumers as well as physicians can still easily be fooled by a counterfeit medication. Various medicals experts also mentioned that one reason it is so tough to detect counterfeit medicines is that they appear strikingly same to the real products. But, there are ways to detect counterfeit drugs. Packaging that is unsealed, labels that are altered or anything that is open inside an outer package should be looked for. The batch number on the outside of the package should match the number on the inside of the package. Different medical related reports also revealed that, packaging should be compared with other packaging for the same drug. While the packaging may look identical, upon close inspection, there may be a dissimilar color on the logo or design on the box. The appearance of the drug also should match; if it looks dissimilar, it could be counterfeit. And beware of price. Anything dramatically cheaper could be counterfeit. Last, physicians should be cautious about a drug if patients report not feeling right or that the medication isn’t working, sources added.

Heroin consumption

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that in Pakistan greater than 800,000 people between the age of 15 and 64 are addicted to use heroin on a daily basis. America is considered as a country where high volume of heroin is consumed but estimates explain that almost 44 tons of heroin is consumed yearly in Pakistan. This ratio is two to three times larger than US.

Other countries like Maldives, Bangladesh, India and Nepal all have drug dependence problems but the higher rate in Pakistan makes it the most exceedingly awful influenced all through South Asia. In Pakistan, the total number of drug addicts as per a United Nations statement is 7.6 million, where 78 percent are male while the rest 22 percent are female. It is also mentioned that the number of these addicts is rising at the rate of 40,000 per year making the country one of the most drug affected states in the world. What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these heroin addicts are under the age of 24. The statements and statistics showed by the UN about the drug abusers to government entities are in fact 1/3 of the actual number of addicted people.


In last I would like to mention here, if political executive and paid bureaucracy had been performing their roles, than fake drugs, contaminated water, adulterated milk and other essential food items unfit for human consumption would not be sold openly in the Pakistani markets. The state should take strictly action against those who are selling fake medicine in Pakistan.

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