Conference aims to raise awareness about dangers of counterfeit, smuggled drugs

A press conference was held on Sunday at Cairo’s Grand Hyatt Hotel to announce the official launch of a consumer awareness campaign against counterfeit and smuggled drugs and medicine.

Jointly conducted by the Egyptian Health Ministry and global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the event aimed to raise public awareness about the importance of ensuring that purchased drugs and medicine were registered with the ministry. The conference also included a one-day workshop for over one thousand Health Ministry inspectors who were trained in the latest inspection practices.

Dr. Ashraf Bayoumi, head of the state-run Central Administration for Pharmaceutical Affairs, began the event by noting that Egypt represented "the first African country to be on the World Health Organization (WHO)’s pre-qualified list of products, which serves to put more responsibility on our inspectors than ever before."

Bayoumi added that the ministry's pharmaceutical inspectors played an "essential role" in finding and eliminating unregistered drugs.

Assistant Minister of Health for Pharmaceutical Affairs Dr. Kamel Sabra also spoke at the event, noting the ministry's efforts to elevate the overall quality of public health services. He explained that one thousand inspectors had recently been hired by the ministry to ensure the frequent inspection of the majority of Egypt’s roughly 45,000 pharmacies.

“Inspectors receive high-level training every three months,” he said, noting that  the ministry hoped to double the number of inspectors by the end of the year.

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed el-Sargany, for his part, pointed out that new laws had been approved last year to curb the black market in counterfeit and smuggled drugs by imposing jail terms of between one and five years on violators and monetary penalties ranging from LE10,000 to LE 50,000.

El-Sargany added that the justice and interior ministries, working "hand-in-hand" with the Egyptian Customs Authority, had made great strides towards ensuring the public's safety from illicit drugs and medicine.

According to the WHO, counterfeit and smuggled drugs account for 10 percent of all pharmaceutical products currently on the market worldwide. 

GSK Consumer Healthcare Regional Regulatory Affairs Director Dr. Ramez Sawiris pointed out that consumers, too, play an indispensable role in combating the phenomenon by making sure the drugs they purchase are officially registered with the ministry. “We're proud to participate in this initiative, which will help the public recognize the dangers of such drugs,” he said.

Sawiris went on to emphasize the health hazards associated with counterfeit drugs, which, he said, often contain impurities and unknown active ingredients."Pharmacies must be sure to obtain all pharmaceutical products directly from authorized distribution centers so as to avoid the counterfeit trap,” he said.

GSK boasts a working presence in some 120 countries worldwide and has a total workforce of approximately 99,000 employees.

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