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Thousands of Africans Fatally Affected Due To Fake Drugs

In Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies.

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Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Africa.

The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.

“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said. Within days he was hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Africa
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods. Pixabay

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.

“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.

Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

Africa
Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.

Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.

For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.

“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.

Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.

Africa
Misuse of antibiotic drugs have lead to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, Pixabay

That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.

Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tonnes of fake medicine over the past two years.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.

“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.

Also Read: Trump Presents Proposal To Lower the Price of Specific Drugs

But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.

“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan. (VOA)

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E-Pharmacies to Grow to $3.7 Billion by 2022: CLSA

The Indian pharma market is valued at $20 billion and has been growing at 10-12 per cent

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E-Pharmacies
According to CLSA, there are several E-Pharmacies operating currently but Netmeds, Pharmeasy, Medlife and 1mg have emerged as the key players with a pan-India reach. Pixabay

E-pharmacies are likely to grow seven times to $3.7 billion by CY22 as they aim to grab a large pie of the highly fragmented Indian market, according to a research note by foreign brokerage, CLSA.

The brick and mortar chemists have been protesting against the business models of online pharmacies and have gone on strike several times.

The Indian pharma market is valued at $20 billion and has been growing at 10-12 per cent. Continuation of current growth trends could propel the market to $35 billion by 2025, the report noted.

However, the distribution channel of the pharmacy market in India is highly unorganised and fragmented with over 80,000 distributors and more than 0.85 million brick and mortar retail outlets allowing room for organised and online pharmacies.

E-Pharmacies
The Indian market of E-Pharmacies is valued at $20 billion and has been growing at 10-12 per cent. Pixabay

According to CLSA, there are several e-pharmacies operating currently but Netmeds, Pharmeasy, Medlife and 1mg have emerged as the key players with a pan-India reach. Apollo Pharmacy with 3,500 stores is the largest offline pharmacy and is also piloting an e-pharma portal. These companies have cumulatively raised close to $400 million since starting out.

As per Frost and Sullivan, e-pharmacy is a nascent market worth $0.5 billion, but it is expected to grow nearly 7 times at 63 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) to $3.7 billion by 2022, riding higher internet penetration.

At present, e-pharmacies largely cater to subset of the chronic market (cardiac, diabetes where drugs purchases can be planned) and their penetration of the acute market has been tough.

Deep discounting and large promotional spends have been drivers of customer acquisition and sales growth. Most e-pharmacies are burning close to Rs 70-80 million per month and this is largely being funded by private equity money, the report noted

E-Pharmacies
At present, E-Pharmacies largely cater to subset of the chronic market (cardiac, diabetes where drugs purchases can be planned) and their penetration of the acute market has been tough. Pixabay

With draft guidelines for regulation of e-pharmacies issued, formalisation of the space on issue of final guidelines may also be an enabler for growth for these companies.

E-pharmacies currently comprise only 2-3 per cent of the India pharma market and thus have limited bargaining power while sourcing from the manufacturer.

“Once e-pharmacies are able to garner 10-15 per cent share of the market, they are likely to have better bargaining power and could then be able to capture a larger pie of margins. Automatic substitution of doctor prescription to unbranded generics (Gx) could be a game changer for e-pharmacies. This may be possible once India enforces uniform quality standards,” CLSA said in the note. (IANS)