R&D bio-pharmaceutical groups warn about rise in COVID-19 falsified medical products in Africa and call governments to ratify the Medicrime Convention to crack down on illicit activities

Published on: 10 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global surge in reported falsified medical products including personal protective equipment, diagnostic tests, and more recently falsified or substandard medicines, “cures” and vaccines.  In Africa, the challenge of falsified and substandard medicines is even more pronounced with over 40% of all the counterfeits reported to the WHO, emanating from Africa. In November last year, a large consignment of counterfeit Covid vaccines was seized in South Africa.

Association of Representatives of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industries (AREPI), The Innovative Pharmaceutical association South Africa (IPASA), Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) and the Association des Industriels Pharmaceutiques en Afrique Francophone Subsaharienne (LIPA), together with International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) call on the African and global health communities to raise awareness about the dangers of substandard and falsified medical products during this particularly challenging time for Global Health.

People participating in the production and traffic of falsified medicines are criminals, intentionally deceiving patients and putting lives at risk. Despite law enforcement efforts to prevent and crack down on these illicit activities, existing legislation and enforcement do not often reflect the severity of the crime or sufficiently deter criminals.

Effective action requires strong legislative frameworks that address this threat holistically, including the danger of illegal online pharmacies. We call on governments to join and ratify the Medicrime Convention, a unique international tool to deter those engaging in schemes aimed at deceiving patients, by criminalizing such activities, ensuring national and international cooperation and protecting public health.  We need to come with stiffer penalties in Africa and more stringent legislative framework to deter, prevent and eliminate substandard or falsified medicines.

The R&D-based biopharmaceutical industry stands ready to support countries in tackling this issue through awareness raising campaigns, capacity building exercises and health system strengthening initiatives. The industry is ready to leverage on digital technologies to accelerate the fight against falsified medicines. As Africa aspires to attain the goals spelt out by the African Union, Agenda 63, we must ensure that falsified medicines do not enter the supply chain as this puts a risk on reversing the great efforts of attaining Universal Health Coverage.