Beware: Fake HIV drugs on sale

Wednesday September 28 2011

A woman who is infected with HIV prepares her medicines. Photo/FILE

A woman who is infected with HIV prepares her medicines. Photo/FILE 

By GATONYE GATHURA [email protected]

Fake and poor quality HIV medicines are in circulation in the local market.

The World Health Organisation is calling on HIV/Aids patients who suspect they may have been prescribed the fake drugs to contact their doctors promptly.

Working with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Kenya, the UN agency in a statement says falsified Zidolam-N tablets have been found in Kenya in various degrees of deterioration including moulding, discolouration and breakages.

Genuine Zidolam-N is a combination of three popular anti-retrovirals - lamivudine, zidovudine and nevirapine and manufactured by Hetero Drugs Ltd of India.

Following this development, WHO has also warned neighbouring countries to make sure the fake medicines are not smuggled into their markets.

On Monday Uganda’s National Drug Authority warned its public to be on the lookout for the fake Zidolam-N tablets circulating in Kenya.

Contacted on Wednesday, Dr Kipkerich Kosgei, the head of the poisons board, said the agency was preparing a public statement on the matter.

He said the issue had been under investigation for more than a month and they did not want to go public earlier for fear that involved parties would go underground.

He said evidence so far indicated the medicines had been donated by a US charity to a local non-governmental group for free distribution but were being offered for sale.

“We have found some of these drugs stored in very poor conditions with some of the samples having turned totally black because of exposure,” he told the Nation.

Dr Kosgei departed slightly from the statement by the United Nations health agency which indicated the products to be fake.

He said that according to their investigations, the medicines had been donated by the genuine manufacturer with good intentions but the recipient groups in Kenya had abused the gesture.

He said the Kenya’s National Drug Quality Control Laboratory was carrying out an analysis to determine the chemical composition of the falsified samples.

“The false products found in Kenya are tablets carrying a reference to ‘batch number E100766’, and claiming to be manufactured in November 2010, with an expiry date of October 2013,” says the WHO in its statement.

A similar warning has also been posted online by Global Fund, saying the fake batch bear a blue logo that belongs to a Canadian private organisation.

However, the Fund says when contacted, the organisation said it was not involved in the procurement or distribution of the product.

“Evaluation of the fake product presentation, tablet’s taste, colour, odour and feel by the WHO and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has established that the packaging and labelling of the falsified products are of poor quality, and contain tablets in varying degrees of deterioration,” says WHO.