-As the country grapples with counterfeit lifestyle medicines, anti-malarial drugs and antibiotics, health experts have raised the alarm over the existence of fake sexual-enhancement drugs.
Dennis Otieno, the head of crime investigations and enforcement for the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, on Wednesday said the most faked sexual-enhancement drug is Viagra.
Mr Otieno said the first seizure of tablets identified as Vega was in 2015 at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
He said the consignment, valued at Sh4 million, had been wrapped in cartons to prevent detection.
“We arrested the suspects and took them to court, where they faced charges of being in possession of [fake] medicines,” he said.
In Mombasa, he added, they seized approximately 20 cartons of falsified Enzoy Plus at a Container Freight Station the same year.
The fake medicine, he said, had been packed in cartons in small pallets at the CFS in Mombasa.
“So far, we have encountered the two brands - Vega tablets and Enzoy Plus - in the war against illicit medicine in the country,” he said.
He noted that both the counterfeit Viagra seized at JKIA and in Mombasa originated from China.
But Mr Otieno said since the two seizures in 2015, the agency had not encountered new cases of counterfeit Viagra, crediting multi-agency efforts to crack down on fake medicines.
“Through cooperation with the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Mombasa port authorities, the Anti-Counterfeit Agency, the police and other agencies we have been able to address the counterfeit challenges,” he said.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an international workshop on combating counterfeiting and piracy at PrideInn Beach Resort in Mombasa on Wednesday, Mr Otieno warned that the risk of taking counterfeit medicine is death.
“It is dangerous for people to consume [fake] Viagra as it can cause death or the user can be maimed for life,” he warned.
The other medicines being counterfeited, he added, were anti-malarial drugs and antibiotics.
He said it is a daunting task to detect the counterfeit medicines, adding that government agencies need to combine efforts in addressing the menace.
In order to tackle the challenge, he added, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has to carry out strict post-market surveillance across the country to fight fake medicines,.
Government agencies also combat the menace along borders and at entry points, he said.
Wilfred Roge, the director of studies at the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), said in the four operations carried out in Africa between 2012 and 2016, they seized Sh800 million in illicit and counterfeit medicines.
He added that the anti-counterfeit operations were carried out in 23 countries including Kenya.
However, Mr Roge said the problem illicit and counterfeit medicines in Kenya is minimal compared with other African countries.
Countries in Africa facing major challenges on this front include the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger, he said.
About 100,000 people in Africa, he said, are suspected to die every year from the use of illicit and counterfeit medicine.
He revealed that there are factories in some African countries that make fake medicine.
“There is need for countries to combine efforts in addressing the challenge of counterfeit medicine in order to save lives,” he said.
Mr Roge added that the trade in illicit and counterfeit medicines across the world is estimated at $75 billion annually.
To address the problem, Mr Roge said there should be cooperation between countries and the concerned agencies.
Sandra Wens, an expert on combating counterfeiting and piracy at the World Customs Organisation, said African countries should join forces in the war against counterfeit medicine.
Ms Wens said customs and other concerned agencies need to cooperate, share information and network to combat counterfeit medicines.
Kiprono Bullut, the chief manager of Container Freight Stations in Mombasa, said government agencies were working hard to stop counterfeit medicines from entering the country.
Participants in the workshop included experts on combating counterfeiting and piracy, customs officials, Anti-Counterfeit Agency officials and pharmaceutical boards’ officials.
The participants attending the workshop come from 27 countries, including France, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Israel, Togo, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Benin and Mauritius.