THE International Police (Interpol) stepped up the heat against
counterfeit items last week when assorted drugs worth about
sh200m were impounded in nine districts.
Five tonnes of medicines were impounded after a sustained
intelligence monitoring and operation by Interpol and the
National Drug Authority (NDA) with support from the World Health
Organisation led-taskforce (International Medical Products Anti
One of the drugs, Chloroquine was found in a container labelled
Quinine because Quinine is more expensive and would fetch the
seller more money. But Chloroquine is no longer a recommended
line of treatment for malaria.
The high cost of genuine drugs, especially the new malaria
treatment line, which costs about $8 (about sh17,000) per dose or
more, has not helped matters with the population resorting to
cheap, fake and less effective alternatives.
"Fake anti-malarial drugs are believed to be a contributory
factor in a significant number of tragedies in sub-Saharan
Africa," read an NDA statement.
Counterfeit is a major threat to sustainable existence in East
Africa because of the unfair competition they present to the
makers of genuine goods who invest loads of money in brand
building and marketing.
But counterfeiting drugs can mean a matter of life and death that
is why there is a serious need by the authorities to hit- hard on
Another drug, Amodiaquine, captured in large quantities all
contained the same batch number, but had different expiry dates.
The other highly-counterfeited drug, Co-trimoxale, commonly known
as Septrin was found missing in a tin labelled Co-trimoxale.
Instead, Panadol was in the tins. Patients suffering from
HIV/AIDS also use Septrin before they can start on ARVs.
"So a person with HIV/AIDS is taking Panadol thinking it is
Septrin," warned Muhammad Lukwago, the NDA inspector of drugs at
the briefing at Interpol Kampala in Kololo.
Lukwago said most of the labelled containers' contents range from
no drugs, different drug contents, expired drugs or totally
different chemicals. That means unsuspecting public is exposed to
these chemicals that experts warn can sometimes lead to death.
The other drugs that failed laboratory tests include Metakelfin
tabs, Chloramphenicol injection and Quinine sulphate. Lumartem,
Quinine injection Arco, and Duocotexcin are free drugs that were
stolen from public stores in Kenya and Tanzania.
The latest operation was conducted in suburbs, slums and the
deeper countryside in Kampala, Mukono, Lugazi, Jinja, Iganga,
Tororo, Busia, Malaba and Mbale.
"They pick genuine labels and then go make replicates on Nkrumah
Road (printing hub in city centre).
"For instance, they get a tin of genuine magnesium which costs
about sh3,000 a tin and then they pluck off the magnesium label,
use the tin to pack quinine which costs about sh80,000 and then
sell to an unsuspecting public," explained David Nahamya, a drug
inspector at NDA.
The boss of Interpol Uganda, Fred Kiyaga, said so far five people
had been convicted and fined sh1m each for illegal possession of
counterfeit drugs. They include Francis Erumbi, Francis Ojambo,
Fred Odongo, Athieno and Catherine. Dan Tusubira who was arrested
last week had the largest consignment in Banda near Kampala. He
was making the counterfeits in his courtyard.
There are 38 other cases awaiting court decisions. Kiyaga said
the exact locations of these drug shops and their proprietors
would be exposed upon court convictions
"These people mostly operate in fringe areas where people are
less suspicious like in Iganga especially on market days," said
"One of the ways that the public can avoid buying these medicines
some of which may be fatally dangerous is by buying drugs from
strictly licensed outlets," advised NDA officials. The registered
outlets have NDA licence certificates hanging on the walls.
Counterfeit medicinal products range from inactive, useless
preparations to harmful, toxic substances and are often
indistinguishable from the genuine product.