Friday 18 October, 2019

Grave concern about counterfeit drugs - police

File photo

File photo

Detectives from the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (C-TOC) say they have made a startling discovery showing that thousands of Jamaicans are now at risk as the counterfeit market is aggressively targeting the island as a place of trade.

The police said they have stepped up their drive to clamp down on the underground scheme, but believe that if urgent steps are not taken to push back the counterfeiters, thousands could fall victim to them.

Investigators are worried that a number of deadly products may be slowly creeping into the country from the multi-billion dollar counterfeit trade, but because it is such a big money business, those involved in the illegal activities are seemingly not concerned if people lose their lives from some products.

“We have been taking a closer look at data on the illegal trade and have found that the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry is operating at a value of close to US$176 billion,” an officer close to the investigation told Loop News.

The data was cited to have been sourced from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 2013 study, which estimated counterfeiting at about two per cent of world trade.

The overall figure for counterfeiting exceeds the Gross National Product (GNP) of entire economies such as Argentina (US173 billion), Ireland (US$167 billion), Israel (US$129 billion) and Venezuela (US$128 billion).

And Jamaica is at risk as players in the industry have already started to eye the jurisdiction as a place for trade.

Armed with a lot of cash, the illegal players are even bringing products that are reportedly responsible for the deaths approximately 900,000 people per year globally, into local stores.

“The victims are killed by counterfeit malaria and tuberculosis medications (Global Financial Integrity study); 64% of counterfeit goods are found in legitimate stores,” a senior police officer said the study has outlined.

They said the very concerning thing is that a number of these dangerous items are believed to be now in Jamaican stores.

The study that has left many persons in shock, pointed to counterfeit medicines as being deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source.

In giving Loop News more details of the study, police personnel said it has also been revealed that in some laboratories overseas, medicines are produced in facilities that are not fit for even animals.

Police sources said these are some people in Jamaica with whom unscrupulous pharmaceutical counterfeiters are linking to do business.

They said in many cases, persons who purchased the counterfeit drugs could not tell where it was produced, and what were the ingredients.

“In some of the labs overseas, there were instances where rat faeces and boric acid were found to be active ingredients of some counterfeit drugs.” cited an investigator.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Fitz Bailey, who was at a training session hosted by the Ministry of Health, in tandem with the police, to warn persons about the dangers of the scheme, cautioned that there must be a collaborative effort locally, to effectively tackle counterfeit pharmaceutical.

"It is reaching our homes, our families and, most importantly, taking counterfeit medicine can be fatal," said Bailey.

"The participants were shown labs where some medicines were produced, and these labs were not fit for even animals.

“Therefore, when one buys counterfeit drugs, there is no way you can tell where it is produced and what the ingredients are,” he indicated.

The police said with the strong connection between local players in the trade and those overseas, there was no telling of the extent such items are in products that are being sold locally.

"The police need to talk with customs, and the converse is also true," said Bailey.

"The police and the Ministry of Health also needs closer collaboration. Therefore, in a nutshell, there has to be collaboration with stakeholders as a strategy to curtail its occurrence," said Assistant Superintendent Victor Barrett, another senior C-TOC member.

ACP Bailey said the training was part and parcel of C-TOC’s mandate to educate and build capacity within the branch.

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