- Written by Queen Munguti for KenyaKidz
Kenya has an eight per cent prevalence of unregulated or grey medicinal brands and high blood pressure drugs are the most affected, this is according to a study, sponsored by the Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) and conducted by pharmaceutical applied researchers from The University of Nairobi School Of Pharmacy.
“Unregulated medicines are those that have entered the market through irregular channels and have not undergone the necessary regulatory scrutiny and market conformity by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board,” said Dr. Anastasia Nyalita, KAPI Chairperson.
“Such products unlike those imported through the official channels, pose grave danger to the patients using them as their efficacy and quality remains questionable. Following the study, KAPI is optimistic that these findings will serve as a basis for broad discussion among stakeholders, to further enhance the regulation, while raising awareness among the general public.”
Indeed, drugs that enter Kenya through unregulated channels are at a greater risk of having issues, even if they are genuine products. The risk results from a lack of control over the handling and storage of products while they are shipped. As a consequence, there is a greater risk for ineffective drugs or even harmful side effects.
Ineffective drugs also lead to increased healthcare costs due to repeat consultations, change of prescriptions, loss of earning due to sickness and in some cases hospitalisation due to continued treatment.
Most of unregulated medicines were found in Nairobi and Nakuru, and some of them in Mombasa and Kisumu. In smaller towns, the problem seems to be less important.
The medicine most affected in Kenya was a product to treat high blood pressure. 38 per cent of all the samples of this product (21 out of the 55 samples of this specific medicine) bought in the study had entered Kenya through an unofficial channel.
Medicine against high blood pressure is sold in large quantities in Kenya, as it is used for a long period of time. These products are therefore more vulnerable to questionable business practices.
To curb the prevalence of such gray products, Dr. Nyalita, confirmed that KAPI has beefed up its market surveillance efforts and will continue to undertake wider studies to ascertain the full extent of the current challenge in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the PPB.
It has also advised consumers to avoid buying products that do not carry English or Swahili instructions for use or which are not labeled in English and or Swahili. Buyers can also verify each official retail by SMS, using the Pharmacy Registration Code shown on the sticker, or ask for it if no sticker can be seen.