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Counterfeit drug vending poses health threats to lives in PNG

By Jacob Marcos

Counterfeit products has become a platform of discussions but yet little has being done about the economic and health ramifications for governments, businesses and consumers of this country.

Just recently, police in Lae have confiscated 526 containers of counterfeit deodorant body spry called “A touch of Magic” that comes in aerosol containers in eight colours allegedly sold in some suspected shops in Lae, Morobe Province (Wed, March 30, 2016. P6).

It indicates that there are more than just deodorants. Its endemic in this country thus has posed huge questions on our authorities who have failed to monitor sinister trends.

Vocal and vibrant Oro Governor Jerry Juffa just recently asked Members of Parliament on how government departments were managing quality assurance.

Juffa was in fact on the right track because organisations ignore mistakes or defects in manufactured products and do not avoid problems when delivering solutions or services to consumers.

A need to crack down on the counterfeit or illegal products needs cohesive approach from individuals, stakeholders, business houses and government bodies so to provide fulfilment and confidence in quality requirements.

One of the solutions is that government departments and line agencies should review acts to step up monitoring and prevalence on substandard, counterfeit and illegal products. Juffa would agree with me.

The National Department of Health (NDoH) has taken into the account of the threat and begun its review on the Medicine and Cosmetic Act 1999 to curb down on counterfeit medicinal drugs under its strategic National Health Plan 2011-2020.

“We want to legislate to give more teeth to the government to crack down on illicit products like counterfeit medicinal drugs. The reviewed act will guide us to testing and sampling of medicinal drugs at Gordons Laboratory for legitimate verification,” NDoH Pharmaceutical Services Manager, Jonila Kepas said.

After going through internal consultation, the review is at the second stage and Ms Kepas would accept any willing interventions and contributions from agencies like Independent Consumer and Competition Commission, Investment Promotion Authority, Registry, Customs or Trade and Industry Departments.

“It is in its second stage now before the World Health Organisation for its technical inputs and will be send to the National Executive Council for amendment in no later than end of September,” the adamant Kepas confidently spoke.

The Prime Minister of this country, Peter O’Neill has also mentioned that many issues pertaining to the illegal activities have bombarded the country and agencies should step up to crack down the practice.

“Some of the issues that are ongoing there need to be corrected and we will certainly look into it and certainly look at how we can best stop these illegal importing of goods that are coming through some of the borders that we have," O’Neill said during an interview in the FM 100 Talk Back Show late last year adding that there were many issues pertaining to that effects.

Kepas’ team is doing the right thing and there should also be likeminded people to steer their agencies into strategizing policies that will cast out breeding place for such multi-billion illegal activities.

Since the counterfeit products exist in virtually every area, including food, beverages, clothes, shoes, pharmaceuticals, electronics, auto parts, toys, and currency, the health department is keen to reviewing the acts on Food & Sanitation, Poison and Dangerous and Nutrition, according to Ms Kepas.

The spread of counterfeit goods is worldwide, and in 2008 a study by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated the global value of all counterfeit goods reached US $650 billion every year.

The impact on such small country like Papua New Guinea can be devastating and unmanageable if we give time for illegal opportunists to take control on streets, shelves and even in our societies.

The pharmaceutical branch in the NDoH has focused on the Product Quality Assurance and by consideration the review of the acts would foster confidence from the public and also offenders of illegal trafficking and street vendors will be prosecuted.

Let’s all support such initiatives and give thumbs up for Ms Kepas and her team who struggled day and night to make things real for the very people of this nation.

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