“You need health authorities to be tougher of these medicines, to have stronger controls in place and to make sure that there are robust systems that border to inhibit counterfeit drugs getting into countries,” Dr Rashem Mothilal, Sanofi Medical Director told CNBC Africa on Wednesday.
Mothilal said time for action has come and the legal systems in developed and underdeveloped nations should impose harsh sentences on offenders.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the multi-billion-dollar global trade in fake medicines was responsible for an estimated 700 000 deaths in 2005 at the hands of illegal antimalarial and tuberculosis agents.
“It’s actually a very big industry and it’s increasing all the time. We’ve seen from WHO that this industry is worth around 7 billion US dollars. It’s actually bigger than the illicit narcotic trade in the world,” he added.
There are several factors attributed to driving the growth of this industry. Mothilal said these include disparities in societies’ access to health care and free movement of goods and services across borders due to economic globalisation.
“Today it’s much easier to access medicines through various portals. You can travel to another country, you can buy it online and largely I think the lack of regulation is what’s driving this pandemic,” he observed.
Mothilal said developed countries seem to be winning the battle because of robust mechanisms in place. He noted that poor countries remain the most vulnerable to the epidemic that has taken the whole universe by surprise.
“They’ve got well-functioning, efficient and robust health systems that regulate these drugs and tight border controls. But other country, more the developing countries, we know that statistics are as high as two thirds of counterfeited medicines found in those markets,” he concluded.