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35% of all imported medicine in Guyana is fake, investigation finds

Published on 14/12/16 at 11:36am

As much as 35% of medicine imported into Guyana is fake and unsafe for use, according to findings by Allan Barrette, a third-party industry investigator acting on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline as part of a week-long inquiry into the region.

The same investigation also shows that Guyana imports over 80% of its drugs from India and Brazil, making it much easier for the illicit system to prosper. According to Barrette, the primary culprits are pharmaceutical importers who put profits over practice and move counterfeit drugs into the country as a means to make quick and easy sales.

Because counterfeiting methods such as packaging and labelling have become more sophisticated, professionals and patients are unable to discern these drugs from the real thing, with patients in need of treatment being the ones who suffer, with hundreds of deaths annually as a result. Barrette explains that these deaths are also often misattributed to treatment resistance or disease mutation, rather than the treatment being medically ineffective.

Barrette outlines two examples of this: the deaths of over 100 patients at a Pakistan hospital in reaction to a fake TB drug, and the deaths of over 8,000 over five years in an Indian hospital during surgery after patients were administered fake antibiotics.

Alongside Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad are also thought to suffer similar issues as core victims of the problems. The counterfeit medicine market is thought to be worth as much as $75 billion a year; in September, a report commissioned by the European Union Intellectual Property Office revealed that €10.2 billion a year is lost in the EU alone.

Matt Fellows

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