The rising cases of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa is a testament how well organised Asia’s criminal gangs venturing for lucrative new markets are behind the dangerous counterfeit products arriving in the continent of more than one billion people.Asian criminal network’s researcher working in Africa told your blogger that it is not just shoes, sunglasses, luxury handbags, CDs and DVDs being counterfeited. Highly sophisticated gangs are branching out into pharmaceuticals and auto spare parts and the number of fakes will only increase as demand keeps rising. Researcher says that poses major risks for consumer safety.It’s particularly dangerous at the moment with the personal goods because these are items that people are sometimes putting into their stomachs, toothbrushes that contain lead, lead paint that can come away from the toothbrush while someone’s brushing their teeth.Researcher pointed out that among the products are fake Toyota oil filters and air filters, those familiar with Africa will no doubt agree with me Toyota is the most preferred auto brand in the continent. In one of the filters he was able to test, he said it showed that it won’t actually filter the oil which obviously can have catastrophic results for an engine. There is also a huge cache of fake mobile phone and laptop batteries that are unlikely to comply with safety standards and pose a number of potential hazards. Government agencies and private sector are also working on greater international collaboration to stop counterfeit goods entering Africa since the risks to consumers were so great and are continuing to facilitate and work on an international dialogue. Pharmaceuticals are coming in that are not real pharmaceuticals and are mainly from India, China and Pakistan.In one case researcher is familiar with, criminal gangs in Eastern Africa coast were seized with some pharmaceutical that could cause people harm and they could die from it. Then there are cosmetics that are being produced and when consumers put them on the face, they could end up with burns on their face.His 2016 research showed that Viagra was the most popular pharmaceutical product with counterfeiters and that there were seizures made in East and Southern Africa ports in the same period.Researcher said laboratory tests had found a disturbing list of ingredients in the fake drugs from heavy metals, chalk and mice poison among others.Counterfeits are an emerging threat taking up more and more of government agencies and private sector’s time.There are organised crime syndicates in Africa that sit behind some of the local property crime where the funds that are being derived from such crime is being re-invested into other crime. It’s an area of exponential growth for criminal networks operating between Asia and Africa. It is well know China is the biggest source country of counterfeit products arriving in Africa but other criminal gangs from countries like Malaysia, India, Thailand and Indonesia see fakes as a new revenue source and Africa has become their target.
With the advent of organised crime being involved in the production of counterfeit products, the genesis, the embarkation points of these products are prolific because they can come from anywhere in Asia or around the world.There is need for enforcement agencies around Africa to disrupt criminal networks in their countries of origin rather than waiting for their products to arrive in Africa.Due to sensitivity of his work, the researcher didn’t share any name of the transnational crime networks involved but all of them at the moment originate from Asian countries.However, researcher’s work show that transnational crime networks that are involved in narcotics and other types of commodity offences are also at the forefront of counterfeiting crime.His research proves without doubt Africa remains an easy target for the distribution of counterfeit medicine sold not only through the Internet but also in pharmacies.There are also fake drugs distribution hubs in Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria and Angola.The distribution of fake drugs continued despite raids by the authorities. Authorities in those countries have tried their best to curb the distribution of fake drugs but those sold in pharmacies are hard to detect because they resemble the real thing,’ researcher told your blogger. It is believed that these counterfeit drugs enter the pharmacies through freelance drugs salespeople.Researcher’s work showed that drugs related with erectile dysfunction therapy were the mostly counterfeited drugs with Kenya and South Africa being the main markets. Its also showed that the drugs are sold in drugstores, pharmacies, sidewalk stalls and via the Internet. Of the drugs bought from the 300 outlets in seventeen countries researcher’s work covered in 2016, 67 percent of the samples collected were counterfeit.Based on research in the respective countries, the distribution of fake drugs in both Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon reached 60 percent, while Ethiopia and Tanzania recorded 17 percent and 13 percent respectively.The researcher predict that the amount of fake medicine in circulation would rise further because a number of pharmacies lacked the sufficient equipped to detect counterfeit drugs. Going forward, the researcher says government agencies and affected companies need to offer training to pharmacists to monitor the distribution of fake drugs and also use special devices to detect fake drugs to prevent counterfeit drugs from being sold in pharmacies. One major worry the researcher noted was that in all the countries researched, pharmacists worked for up to three pharmacies. When they work in three pharmacies simultaneously, they face problems in monitoring the drugs sold there. Most commonly counterfeited drugs are pain killers, erectile dysfunction drugs and headaches drugs. The African trade in counterfeit medicine must be addressed together to prevent the continent from becoming a conduit for the illegal medicine trade.