Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 2082, dated June 15, 2010, the country celebrated the 2021 National Consciousness Week Against Counterfeit Medicines (NCWACM) on November 15 to 19, 2021 with the theme and tagline – “Huwag magpaloko, manigurado! Gamot na awtorisado, ‘yun ang tangkilikin n’yo.”
Our consumer group was a party to the collaboration with the academe, pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy associations, patients and consumer groups, local government units, law enforcement agencies and other government agencies in the 5-day celebration.
As one of the strong partners of the Food and Drug Administration, Laban Konsyumer Inc. was recognized for its hard work, commitment and valuable contribution in the fight against counterfeit medicines in the country. The problem on counterfeiting requires multi-sectoral collaborations. The proliferation of counterfeit health products has health, economic, and medication safety implications. With our consumer group’s unwavering support and collaboration, we believe that we can help end and defeat counterfeits.
In this connection, I delivered a brief message on Day 3 for LGUs /Consumers of the event. The FDA invitation letter stated that xxx“we deeply value your insights in our country’s fight against counterfeit medicines. Your message in this very important event will also serve as an encouragement to participants from the public and private sectors that are doing their best in fighting the threat of counterfeit medicines in the country”.
My message was:
- “Congratulations to the Food and Drug Administration and law enforcement agencies for this annual celebration of the National Consciousness Week against Counterfeit Medicines. Combatting counterfeit medicines requires a whole community approach. Where are the areas that consumer welfare would like to know in order to be of value to the nation?
I offered three (3) strategies to assist in the fight against counterfeit medicines:
- health literacy and education
- synergy between the government and consumer associations, and
- sharing of information on laboratory test results of counterfeit medicines.
First, on health literacy and education, I enjoined the Food and Drug Administration to take up an innovative role of educating the public that they will not be victim of scams. This has to be a whole year endeavor and integrated into home education and the school curriculum. While government tends to look at counterfeits as a product issue, one has to broaden this perspective into a practice issue. So, when a person or entity promotes a dubious product, science and regulatory intervention must come in to address this scam beyond merely confiscating the product. They must help the public understand that they should not patronize fake medicines by teaching them how to recognize the signs. It is helpful that consumers recognize and identify the meaning of visuals and icons in the quick identification of counterfeit medicines. Finally, it is also encouraged that law enforcement agencies conduct a regular destruction of counterfeit medicines with full media coverage to heighten awareness of consumers on the safety issues of counterfeit medicines.
Second, there should be a system for consumer associations to participate in the campaign against counterfeit medicines across the country. What is the prevalence of counterfeit medicines and what is the current progress of field inspection? There seems to be not much news. This creates a perception that counterfeit medicines are not a serious problem. The public needs feedback from government and such feedback becomes a venue for trust and accountability. This cannot be a once-a-year awareness activity. Adopting innovations and sensible regulators can deputize consumer groups to participate as associate law enforcement agents. Government and the business sector cannot do this alone.
The collaboration between the regulators and the consumer associations is encouraged at the ASEAN regional level. For more details, I refer you to my column of October 30, 2021 on the subject. Further, I suggested in the recently concluded ASEAN Consumer Association Network (ACAN) that government regulators and consumer associations can conduct joint field inspections to monitor compliance with product standards and quality. Such joint enforcement activities can be funded by government budget to defray the expenses of the monitoring teams.
Third, we hope that the government regulatory agencies collaborate with many laboratories on sharing resources to detect substandard medicines (not only fake; but no active ingredients).It is the duty of the government to lead and conduct these tests and transparently announce findings. This suggestion to publish the laboratory test results of counterfeit medicines supports the right of the consumer to be informed as well as access to quality medicines.
Atty. Vic Dimagiba
President of Laban Konsyumer Inc.
Email at [email protected]