22 Jun 2008
The War on the Cameroon Front
During the recent celebration of the African day for the fight against illicit trade in pharmaceutical products, authorities in some of the ten provinces in Cameroon organized raids and seizures of medicines in such open markets of Douala, Bafoussam and Garoua.
Cameroon and many African countries are inundated with unregulated pharmaceutical products that circulate outside the officially approved channels and have become a serious public health problem.
In Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital the recently constituted committee to fight against the illicit trade organized a raid of Central market and Mboppi market. A combined force numbering over 100 comprising gendarmes and police seized two tipper loads of pharmaceutical products valued between 50-70 million cfa francs and arrested a couple of traders.
The products were deposited at the Douala Urban Council warehouse and community pharmacists were invited to come and make an inventory of the products. Pharmacists took turns to document the seized products for about three days.
It was observed that majority of the seized products were strange (meaning that they were not licensed for sale in Cameroon). Manufacturers were as varied as the variety of products seized. Many came from Asia (India, China, Bangladesh etc) and others came from such European countries like Germany, Spain while others were from Africa, notably Nigeria. Products like Chloroquine and phenylbutazone that have been withdrawn from the Cameroon market were amongst the seized items. Amongst the products were HIV test kits and Tetanus antitoxin- a product that should be stored between 2-8 degrees C but was seized from the open markets of a city with temperatures around 30 degrees C. Another disturbing find was that of a carton with about a thousand labeled empty packets of Sildenafil 100mg tabs box of 4 bearing the trade name Vega. It was clear that this erectile dysfunction medication popularly known by the pioneer manufacturer’s name Viagra is being at least packaged clandestinely in Cameroon.
It was obvious from mere physical examination that many of the seized products will eventually turn out to be fakes with dubious label claims. This will not be surprising as different credible sources claim that the annual global trade in counterfeit medicines now stands at more than $60 billion. It is equally estimated that roughly 10% of all medicines in use today are fakes. In some countries with poor drug regulations, that percentage can be as high as fifty.
Njei Moses Timah