Pharmacy board fights fakes with new testing kits

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has acquired 11 portable drug-testing kits to help ascertain that malaria, tuberculosis and HIV medication being sold locally meet the set standards.

The equipment, described as ‘Mini-Labs’, will be distributed to different ports of entry to help test quality of the drugs entering the country and stop the circulation of substandard and potentially dangerous medicines.

The kits, which are worth Sh6.2 million, are a donation from the United States Pharmacopoeia and come at a time when reports show that up to 30 per cent of drugs in circulation in the domestic market are counterfeit.

The Mini-Lab is low-cost, on the spot, screening mini-laboratory designed to help developing countries detect substandard medicine,” Dr Kipkerich Koskei, the board’s registrar, said in a statement

“PPB is now in a position to continuously monitor the quality of the pharmaceutical products in the Kenyan market at a cost-effective way.”

The portable kit will help verify label claims on drug identity and content and detect substandard medicines which either contain the wrong active ingredients or too much high, low or zero levels of the same.

Samples of any suspicious medication will then be shipped to the National Quality Control Laboratory and other approved laboratories for further testing.

The gazetted ports of entry set to receive the new kits are Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Isbania and Lunga Lunga, Kilindini Port, Inland Container Depot (ICD) Embakasi and ICD Pepe Athi River.

Others are EMS City Square, Isebania, Busia, Malaba and Eldoret International Airport.

A study of suspicious drugs collected between 2002 and 2010 in 11 African countries and Asia enroute to Africa cited Kenya as one of the 11 African countries selling counterfeit anti-malaria drugs.

READ: Studies show counterfeit drugs hurt Kenyan lives, economy

The Kenyan Association of Pharmaceutical Industry estimates that counterfeit pharmaceutical products account for approximately $130 million (Sh13.4 billion) annually in sales in the country.

Regionally, it is estimated that counterfeit products cost East African governments more than $500 million (Sh52 billion) in lost tax revenue annually.

In June, global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had to recall its Panadol Baby and Infant Suspension from the Kenyan market due to discrepancies on its dosage table.