You take an antacid pill but, it doesn’t settle your heartburn. Your wife’s anti-allergic medicines are not curing her skin allergies, or your mother still complains of back pain, despite taking her medicines on time. Situations like these have become a common spectacle in India. It simply means that medicines are not working against diseases or most medicines you are consuming in everyday life are counterfeit and substandard.
Fake medicines have deeply penetrated into the Indian pharmaceutical market. Such dubious medicines can be found anywhere i.e. from government pharmacies to big pharma stores, local drug stores to small shops. People are highly susceptible to counterfeit or fake medicines due to lack of awareness and poor monitoring of drug supply chains.
A recent report by WHO (World Health Organisation) states that 1 in 10 medical products circulating in third world countries are either of low quality or are fake. These medicines not only fail to treat diseases but can also lead to serious implications.
The Department of Food Safety and Drug Administration says that 10% of the duplicate drugs have been introduced into the India pharma market whereas, 38% are of subpar quality, which do not work at all.
The above-stated figures point towards a worrisome situation in which it has become difficult to find an original medicine with ease.
Let’s discuss some of the challenges posed by counterfeit medicines.
1. Hampers business growth of pharma companies: It has been experienced time and again that counterfeits can lead to huge business loss and the gradual shrinking of the market share of real credible pharmaceutical companies. According to reports, fake medicines lead to an annual loss of $46 billion annually for pharma companies worldwide.
2. Blocks the use and promotion of low-cost generics: Almost 90 % of India’s drug market is dominated by branded generics. To promote the use of less expensive branded generic medicines government is taking various measures but, the circulation of fake drugs blocks its promotion and sale. This is because medicine earns a bad reputation due to its counterfeiting.
3. Increased pressure on national health and economy: The use of counterfeit medicines increases unnecessary costs on public health. This is due to their unwanted side effects which leads to a host of other health complications and diseases subsequently creating a vicious circle.
4. The extra cost for resources: To tackle the issue of counterfeits government has created many regulatory bodies but, has failed to counter the problem due to lack of manpower, for more human resources increase in costs is quite evident. For instance, India’s Central Drugs Standard Organization which is the country’s drug regulator had just 233 employees in 2014. In order to increase the strength of employees will bring an extra burden on the government in the form of increased expenditures.
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