Pakistan's fake drugs markets sell medicines made of poison and brick dust: report

Published: August 31, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s markets sell fake pills, capsules, tablets, and syrups of all types, for every type of ailment, according to a report by CNN.

“We make everything here, whatever is in high demand in the market place,” a man at the fake drugs workshop, who was not identified, told CNN.

“In all of these capsules and bottles we put the same ingredients. And all of the syrup is the same syrup. Only the color is different,” he added.

Read: Quality check: ‘Don’t confuse substandard drugs with fake products’

Another counterfeiter boasted about how easy it is to buy these fake drugs. “Everything is available from the nearby market, bottles, boxes, bottle caps, capsules… everything,” he says.

Javed Iqbal, a medicine supplies salesman, admits to selling these components but denies any knowledge of the counterfeiting that happens after the buyer leaves his shop. “They buy from us, this is our business. But we don’t know what they put in these bottles, it could be alcohol, it could be medicine. We don’t know.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as one million people die every year worldwide from ingesting counterfeit medications. In Pakistan, in 2012, in one incident alone, 120 people died after taking counterfeit heart medicine.

In 2010, Rehman Malik, then Interior Minister, addressed the National Assembly calling for action against counterfeit medicine. “Between 45-50% of Pakistani drugs were fake or of substandard quality,” he informed the members of the assembly.

Although, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has carried out many raids to curtail the fake drug trade, the problems still persists.

According to the Pakistani Pharmacist Association, there are approximately 4,000 licensed pharmacies in Pakistan, but also as many as 100,000 other illegal merchants selling medications.

“The packaging is made to look beautiful and attractive so that the patient never comes to know what’s inside it. Counterfeit medicines cheat the patient. The copies don’t work and the patients don’t recover. Of course laws and rules exist but they are not implemented in this country,” said Farmann Abbass, a Pakistani pharmacist.

Read: Spurious medicine: ‘Stricter law promulgated for drug distribution’

Some of the fake medicine made in Pakistan also ends up being sold online to countries in Europe and the US. However, according to the most recent WHO figures, the counterfeit market was worth $431 billion in 2012, with most originating from India and China.

With his face obscured to mask his identity, a man who sells the fake medicines online from Pakistan told CNN, “it’s our job. We just work here. But, we don’t recommend anyone we know buying these drugs. They are not good quality medicines.”

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), John Clark, said, “Analysis of fake drugs seized in the US has shown traces of pesticides, rat poison, brick dust and paint, among other ingredients.”

However, Clark, who is now Chief Security Officer and Vice President of Global Security for Pfizer pharmaceuticals, is of the opinion that the counterfeiters aren’t necessarily intending to poison people. “They’re looking for the cheapest binding agents available to maximize their profits.”

This article originally appeared on CNN

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Reader Comments (7)

  • A K
    Aug 31, 2015 - 3:42PM

    Oh God. This is criminal.Recommend

  • Brar
    Aug 31, 2015 - 8:55PM

    We think we will never die whereas every one knows we are here for a limited period and we also have no fear of God but pretend to be very religious.Recommend

  • Fahad ilyas
    Aug 31, 2015 - 9:17PM

    This is totally biased and fake report , Pakistan ‘medicines are exporting to more than 20 countries includes, philpine, srilanka, vietnam, sudan and so many others and alhumdullilah our medicines are better than Indian and chinese products, yes there are some medicines produced sub standard by intention or un intention but the share is not more than 1-2 %. This industry is enjoying 4th largest industry of pakistan and offereing very huge employment to middle class and at the same time offering very good price and save the country’s reserve.Recommend

  • MIB
    Sep 1, 2015 - 12:16AM

    Fake report … all fabricated stories.Recommend

  • Sep 3, 2015 - 12:16PM

    This letter intends to express my grievances on behalf of PPMA (Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association) on the news story about counterfeit drugs in Pakistan.

    To say that facts and figures of this very news story were wrong is putting it mildly. Fact of the matter is that this is a twisted story in many ways and what makes it even more unpleasant is that Pakistan’s Pharma industry version was grossly missing. Thus it paints a disgraceful & incorrect picture of Pakistan pharma industry.

    You mentioned in your report that counterfeit drugs are in $431 billion trade whereas the total Pakistan pharma market is around 3 billion US$.
    “According to the story, 45-50%of drugs sold in Pakistan are fake or substandard quality”. This statement is speculative based on the statement of a politician. Has this statement been validated by any international agency or WHO?

    “Your report further says that there are 100,000 merchants who dispense drugs illegally”. Is your statement authenticated by any of the international or national agencies.

    As stated by your report there are online pharmacy retailers in Pakistan & “up to 50% of unlicensed online pharmacy retailers are selling counterfeit drugs”. This can be true for any banana republic but certainly not for Pakistan. Authorities take strict action if such malpractices are spotted.

    “You also mentioned that 57,000 illicit online pharmacies were suspended & 1400 suspected were arrested”. Have any arrests been made in Pakistan in that regard? These facts and figures are not even distantly related to Pakistan.

    This is where facts were twisted very cleverly. Mixed international facts with reference to Pakistan.

    You mentioned Pakistan ranked 24th, It would have been very informative for the people if you could have mentioned No. 1 country making counterfeit drugs and No.2 and till No.10. But I think you have no courage to mention these countries.

    You mentioned in your report with reference to the former U.S. custom official that some of the toxic ingredients found in counterfeit medicines that have been seized include rat poison, brick dust and paint. This statement has nothing to do with Pakistan.You are giving a false impression that such medicines are from Pakistan.

    “Further you mentioned 2012 incident; “120 heart patients died after ingesting counterfeit heart medication”. The drug in question was not counterfeit but adulterated”. There is huge difference between two definitions. Disciplinary action has already been taken by the govt. in this regard.

    You have not given a single statement of any expert or stake holder view in your entire report.

    Again you mentioned between 100,000 and one million people die every year as a result of taking counterfeit medication”. Please mention the target (top 10) countries making counterfeit drugs.

    Pakistan is not even in (top 20).

    Pakistan pharmaceutical industry is one of the most regulated and vibrant industry in Pakistan. We have more than 600 licensed units. Pharmaceutical market volume is around 3 billion US$ annually. Pakistan is exporting to more than 40 countries worldwide. In many countries Pakistani companies are rated no. 1 for quality and efficacy. Pakistan Pharma industry is fulfilling more than 90% of the country’s pharmaceutical requirements.

    Your report gave a wrong impression about Pharma industry in Pakistan. Facts and figures were distorted, twisted and fabricated.

    It can badly affect our exports. Industry version or experts opinion were not invited. Only one side of story was given.

    We strongly protest your report and condemn such biased reporting.

    We seek immediate appointment from your concern person to clear up all the misconceptions and provide our version and straighten false and misleading figures with reference to Pakistan given in the report.

    Thank You,
    Best Regards,
    PPMARecommend

  • Muhammad saqib khan (clinical pharmacist)
    Sep 4, 2015 - 3:27PM

    Pakistan has total pharma market USD 2 billion ,growth rate 15%, manufacturing plant 700 ,pharmaceutical export >USD 190mi . this all the report of cnn is fake only for decreasing the export volume of pakistans pharmaceutical in international market. No one individuals can’t counterfite the product because in all over pakistan distribution network excist ,company only supply their product to licensed distributors than distributor supply this product through out the pakistan .if any individual makes counterfite or fake medicines products of another company molecule so company can it self register a case on indiviual persons according to act 1976 in drug court but this things nevered seen in past , its mean there is nothing happening in pakistan market.Recommend

  • Sarah
    Oct 2, 2015 - 9:50AM

    Where can we report fake medicines being sold in Islamabad? I saw a telephone number on a PTV ticker but couldn’t make a note of it? It’s crazy the best names in market are selling fake medicinesRecommend

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