Local pharmacies caught selling substandard & falsified drugs

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At least nine local pharmacies have been busted by authorities for selling substandard and falsified (SF) medication.

The Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) has since called in the police to assist with the investigation into this matter.

GA-FDD launched an investigation into this situation on August 22, 2019, after receiving information that an unknown individual is clandestinely manufacturing or importing medication and releasing it for sale on the local market.

Inspectors visited 16 pharmacies in Georgetown and outlying areas.

At nine of those pharmacies, they unearthed a large number of the falsified or substandard drugs.

The inspectors found 17 boxes of a medication labelled “chanca piedra phosmovite” with a manufacturer’s address stated only as “Mainland Labs in Canada”, which claim to treat gall and kidney stones, clean the liver and the urinary tract.

They also found 28 boxes of a product named “Fungabort” with the same manufacturer’s address which claim to be effective in the treatment of nail fungus.

In addition, 23 boxes of “Phosferine” were also seized and removed from premises, since the stated address “Phosferine Health Care Co., Toronto Canada” could not have been established.

Efforts to verify the stated address on the labels of other two products by the Department were also unsuccessful.

None of the pharmacies were able to furnish receipts or other documentation as proof of purchase to inspectors, as is required by law.

“This is a clear breach of the Consumer Affairs Act Section 18: 1-3, it is also a breach of the Food and Drug’s Act, Part VI, chapter 21 section (c & d) which speaks to adequate record keeping for trace-ability purposes particularly for the sale of medication for patient use,” GA-FDD said.

The average retail cost for the chanca piedra phosmovite, Fungabort and Phosferine were found to be G$3500, G$ 1000 and G$3000 respectively.

The Department is advising all pharmacies to; with immediate effect, desist from the practice of purchasing and retailing medication to be used by patients from walk-in-salesmen (suitcase traders) who refuse to provide invoices or adequate receipt or other records for trace-ability purposes.

In the meantime, the Department said inspectors will continue to seize and detain items with inaccurate addresses and where the identity of the wholesaler/distributor is unknown.

GA-FDD further noted that a detailed statement/report will be made to the Guyana Police Force in an effort to apprehend or locate this individual.

“This we believe will ultimately ensure that, only safe and efficacious medications are released for sale on our local market,” the Department posited.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in November, 2017 that SF medication distributed in low and middle income countries accounts for 10 % or 1 in 10 of all medication distributed, and cost these countries in excess of USD 30 million annually.

The cost to the local economy and the percentage of SF medication is currently unknown.

The GA-FDD has been able to embark upon these activities due to increased resources and personnel (Inspectors) facilitated by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

The GA-FDD noted that it is currently in a substantial position to aggressively implement measures to protect consumers from the associated dangers of SF medications.