Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Counterfeit Drugs 5: Mongolia Case

My friend from UlanBaatar, Jargal Dambadarjaa, who is also the head of the Mongolians for Fair Taxes and Wise Spending wrote two months ago in his blog, Counterfeit Medications. Jargal wrote,

... We, the citizens, already know that we use counterfeit drugs poisonous for our health. Those who lost their loved ones because of using poisonous counterfeit drugs, knows even better.

Citizens of Mongolia want to know only about why your drugstores are not stopping to sell counterfeit drugs and what you, Mr. Minister, are doing to stop this kind of crime as the highest competent one in charge of population health. You said “Drug control is carried by the State Professional Inspection Agency, but originally the Health Ministry must take control of drugs”. Can Mongolian Government and state-run agencies control themselves? State controlling agencies are all already in entrenchment....

Even innocent young kids die on hospital beds because hospitals inject counterfeit injections. Wondering if You are in power to stop your subordinate who force patients to buy counterfeit drugs or not?

As Minister for Health, can you publicly announce how many companies are licensed to import medications in Mongolia, when did they get such licenses, on what grounds the licenses are suspended and how many of these licensed companies are linked to current and previous ministers, deputies and to those authorized to issue licenses? The citizens doubt that You can announce all these publicly....

Jargal did not cite figures of how what percentage of local drugs are estimated to be counterfeit. I think he also referred substandard drugs (those with correct ingredients but at insufficient amount or ratio) as counterfeit (those with zero or very little useful ingredients). But this is a minor point. The important one is that government health authorities, like Mongolia's Ministry of Health, should be made to explain, if not made to account, for the proliferation of counterfeit drugs.

I am happy that true to his being a free market crusader, Jargal pointed out this lackluster performance by an office of the Mongolian government, especially in protecting citizens' health via respecting property rights of important commodities like medicines. It is those violators of property rights like the manufacturers and traders of counterfeit drugs that endanger public health.

In the Philippines, the DOH and local players estimate that about 10 percent of drugs in the local market are counterfeit and/or substandard. Such drugs are more likely to be sold by ambulant drug vendors who carry drugs in their bags and walk from house to house selling their wares. Or drugs sold in some rural or small town pharmacies which have no clear sign that they are a drugstore, like in this photo.

In such situation, ordinary folks would easily be lured to buy counterfeit or substandard drugs because they are sold very cheaply.

See also:
Counterfeit Drugs 1: On the Growing Fake Drugs Worldwide, December 21, 2007
Counterfeit Drugs 2: IPN Report on Fake Drugs in Poor Countries, May 29, 2009
Counterfeit Drugs 3: The SCLD, RA 8203, June 04, 2009
Counterfeit Drugs 4: Drugs Can Kill, December 17, 2010

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