Politics behind Counterfeiting in South East Asia and Africa
In the most recent awareness program conducted by the Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, held at the Plaza Tower in Jakarta, Indonesia last October 20, 2015, a healthy debate has been infused between the government officials who attended and speakers representing pharmaceutical companies and ordinary consumers regarding the role of politics and bribery in the unending case of counterfeiting.
Both parties have agreed that political will and financial support are vital in strengthening medical regulation among countries. The issue has transpired when corruption has been mentioned.
Lack of political will is being pointed out as one of the main reasons why there is the lax of security among authorities. For instance, Indonesia has an increasing number of counterfeit medicines despite the government’s efforts of imposing death penalty to those caught guilty of smuggling fraud medicines in the country. Politicians argue that because of archipelagic demography of Indonesia, they cannot possibly employ hundreds of people in every port considering there are 17,000 islands in the country. The government employees then assured though that strict security measures are being implemented in the main cities. The presenter then questioned the validity of this statement as Jakarta, the country’s capital, has the highest number of black markets selling counterfeited Viagra, Cialis and Tamiflu. Warnings were even passed around the city of the widespread of Xanax pills.
Keynote speaker, Mark Edwards, TPG’s legal representative, then stated, “Whether it is a patient denied access to treatment and medicines because they cannot afford to bribe, or the effect of counterfeit drugs with no medicinal value, the theft of a national health budget by a corrupt public official, or the distortion of regulatory decisions through inappropriate lobbying, corruption in the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare sector damages lives”. This derailment had been backed up by a survey conducted with the help of hundred random respondents in 13 South-East Asian and African countries reported to have high percentage of counterfeit medicines. Results show that over 70 percent of the public believed that medical and health services were corrupt or extremely corrupt.
Corruption, bribery and lack of political will are a never-ending problem in society which most politicians would deny. Their denial makes it harder to eliminate the issue but it prevails. It may be improbable to strengthen the legislation to ensure that counterfeiting medical products is a crime and that punishment is commensurate to the consequences that it has on personal health and on the credibility of national health care delivery systems.