Senator seeks probe on spread of fake medicines in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) — A senator sought an investigation into the prevalence of counterfeit medicines in the country.

Senator Ralph Recto on Monday filed a Senate resolution following the recent report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that the Philippines has the highest incidences of fake medicines in Southeast Asia. UNODC said majority of the pharmaceutical crime incidents in Southeast Asia from 2013 to 2017 happened in the Philippines, with 193 incidents. Pakistan, China, and India are the most referred origins of falsified medicines globally.

The lawmaker described the crime as "a large-scale swindle of the cruelest kind."

"They are victimizing the poor who often have to borrow money to buy medicine or cost-cut by buying doses lower than what the doctor has prescribed," Recto said on his official Facebook page.

According to UNODC, there is a spread of locally-manufactured counterfeit over-the-counter medicines and anti-tuberculosis medicine in the country. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public against counterfeit Biogesic paracetamol tablets in the market. FDA has previously seized weight loss products, erectile dysfunction medicine, and other illicit medicine worth US $125,000 (roughly P6.51 million).

"Transnational organized criminal groups will continue to exploit weaknesses in supply chains to match supply with demand for cheaper medicines, allowing falsified, substandard, and unapproved medical products to flourish in supply chains and local markets, posing threats to patients, health systems, and programs that rely on receiving lifesaving or therapeutic products," the UNODC "Transnational Organized Crime in Southeast Asia: Evolution, Growth, and Impact" report read.

Recto said the Senate investigation aims to explore the problem in order to propose remedial measures that will enable the FDA and law enforcement agencies to fix this issue.

President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 ordered the police to arrest those who manufacture and sell fake medicines.