BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 16 Dec 2009
A federal law is being drafted by the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) for regulating all kinds of medical products and pharmacy professionals as well as pharmaceutical facilities.
Speaking at the regional conference on fighting counterfeit medicines in Dubai on Tuesday, the Minister for Health Dr Hanif Hassan Ali said that the move comes as part of the ministry's efforts to ensure regulations to trap counterfeit medicines arrive in the country, or produced in the UAE illegally.
"The bill on medical fraudulence will boost the efforts of the authorities to control measures to eliminate the issue or at least to reduce it by imposing stiff actions and penal procedures against the offenders," he added.
According to him, the country requires intensification of efforts to prevent the spread of the medicine fraudulent phenomenon. A range of specialists in various aspects control the credibility of medicines and the fight against falsified medications.
The regional conference on fighting counterfeit drugs, supported by Pfizer, comes within the framework of the country's keenness to meet the challenges that hinder the progress of the health sector.
The minister said that the UAE takes tremendous efforts to combat medical fraud in cooperation with concerned international organisations, as the drug counterfeiting is perpetrated by illegals without taking into account the public health and in violation of the laws and codes.
"A clear strategy has been established on the basic principles in provision of medicines at the highest level of safety for treatment of residents in the country. The MoH regulates drugs and pharmaceuticals after confirming their effectiveness and quality through the testimony of relevant organisations," pointed out Hassan Ali.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, CEO for Medical Practice and Licence at the MoH, said the UAE introduced a new law earlier this year, asking all companies to register medical equipment and supplies, which will enable the ministry to ban the entry of any medical device without prior registration. It will take effect from January next year.
"Veterinary medicines and medical supplies as well as medicines derived from natural sources and herbal cosmetics and accessories are also included in the law. The UAE Federal Law No. 4 of 1983 requires introduction of drug registration prior to entry into the state, and supervision of the pharmaceutical activities," he added.
Guy Lallemand, Regional President for Africa and the Middle East for Pfizer Inc, said, "The growth in pharmaceutical counterfeiting is attributable to two key factors technology and globalisation. The counterfeiters are no longer mom-and-pop operations, but rather organised criminal enterprises, whose profits flow to illegal organisations and bodies."
"The criminals, being organised themselves beyond geographical boarders, have created a systemised means of copying, producing, marketing, transporting, and distributing counterfeits medicines that victimise our families, friends, and on the whole the community," he added.
According to him, the counterfeit medicines contain unknown quantities of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and have been found to include toxins like arsenic, boric acid and lead, in addition to brick dust, floor wax and cartridge ink.
The World Health Organisation reveals that two-thirds of the world is victim to counterfeit drugs, and people are dying on a daily basis. He pointed out that the World Health Organisation acknowledges the issue of counterfeit medicine is a form of organised crime and should be prosecuted by law.
According to Dr Amiri, a ministerial decision was issued last year to form a supreme committee to combat counterfeit medicines. The committee included representatives from the MoH and the Ministry of Economy, besides officials from health authorities, customs and internal affairs.
"Dubai Customs Authority seized over $5.4 million worth of counterfeit drugs in one of the region's largest raids in September 2007. By the first five months of 2008 the authority also seized about 293 tonnes of counterfeit drugs," he explained.
The authorities prevent the entry of fake drugs to the country through cooperation with competent authorities and relevant bodies such as the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Customs Authority, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Environment Agency as well as other health authorities and pharmaceutical establishments.