New Zimbabwe.com

Africa hamstrung by deadly flood of fake medicine

AFP

After he was struck down by malaria and typhoid, Togolese tailor Ayawo Hievi thought he was set to recover when he started taking drugs prescribed by his doctor.

But far from curing him, the medication he was given at the neighbourhood clinic made him far worse – eventually costing him one of his kidneys.

The drugs were fake.

“After four days of care, there was no improvement, but I started to feel pain in my belly,” Hievi, 52, told AFP.

After two weeks of suffering he became unable to walk and was rushed into the university hospital in the West African nation’s capital Lome.

“The doctors told me that my kidneys had been damaged… the quinine and the antibiotics used to treat me in the medical office were fake drugs.”

Now, over four years later, he remains crippled by chronic kidney failure and has to go to hospital for dialysis regularly.

Hievi’s horror story is far from unique in a continent awash with counterfeit medicines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year some 100 000 people across Africa die from taking “falsified or substandard” medication.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated in 2015 that 122 000 children under five died due to taking poor quality anti-malaria drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Weak legislation, poor healthcare systems and widespread poverty have encouraged the growth of this parallel – and deadly – market.

Long story short, since 2013, Africa has made up 42% of the fake medicine seized worldwide.

The two drugs most likely to be out-of-date or poor, ineffective copies are antibiotics and anti-malarials, say experts.

And bogus drugs not only pose a risk to the patient – they also play a worrying part in building resistance to vital frontline medications.