The frequent countrywide crackdowns on illegal chemists and pharmacies, in which hundreds of such establishments have been shut down and the operators arrested, underline the grave threat they pose to users.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has been carrying out swoops on these merchants of death but the mere fact that they keep reappearing confirms that this is, indeed, a lucrative business.
These crooked people continue to risk arrest and confiscation of their merchandise because the returns are just too good for them to keep off.
The board has been compelled to come out and strongly warn the owners of the 11 chemists closed down in the Upper Eastern region alone recently, not to dare reopen them until they meet the stringent guidelines to ensure the safety of those who buy and use the drugs.
Some of the operators arrested in Meru County, for instance, have reopened their outlets and continue to sell expired or substandard medicines. Similar reports have come from other regions and even Nairobi, where the board's headquarters is located.
Besides ensuring that staff in these chemists are pharmacists, who are qualified to do the job, the suitability of premises and other stringent requirements must also be met. The public is also being advised to use the health safety codes displayed in the registered pharmacies to verify legal entities.
One of the factors contributing to the defiance by the owners of the illicit chemists is the rather lenient fines of between Sh5,000 and Sh20,000 and Sh200,000 bond. The high number of repeat offenders is as a result of the non-deterrent sentences.
The fines and bail conditions must be tightened, as the suspects are a big danger to public health.