Government agencies responsible for determining the authenticity of drugs must take the necessary steps to carry out tests in a timely fashion, president of the Pharmacy Board of TT Andrew Rahaman said yesterday.
He was responding to claims made by chief executive officer of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) Liaquat Ali-Shah, last week, that counterfeit pharmaceuticals were a billion-dollar industry that was killing people worldwide. Ali-Shah, during a news conference at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, also said counterfeit drugs were even bigger than the cocaine and guns trade worldwide. He claimed that some 97 per cent of online pharmacies were fake.
Rahaman told Sunday Newsday instead of frightening the public based on speculation, CARIRI should push the respective agencies to test the drugs for their authenticity, “so we can say, this is the Trinidad position.”
“Do not use an international occurrence to say, ‘it has happened here’ by speculation. I’d rather use an international occurrence to say it caused us to test and having tested, we can fully confirm that these pharmaceuticals are counterfeit or they are just generic,” he said.
“Because all of the drugs they have been referring to locally, none have been tested and proven to be counterfeit, all have been proven to be unregistered.”
Rahaman, who was recently re-elected president, claimed pharmaceuticals usually took “a ridiculously long time” to get registered.
“So that if people find other ways to import it, they use it.”
Rahaman said customs and excise also needed to be more circumspect. “The unregistered drugs is not supposed to go beyond our ports of entry by being facilitated by customs, so it should be stopped there. So, there is a big role for the customs to play in preventing the entry of the unregistered drugs.”
Rahaman said proof of authenticity has not been forthcoming.
“The items are essentially unregistered items and we would like the items to be tested to confirm it was counterfeit. We understand and we accept that it is now a worldwide phenomena and we may not be exempt from the effects of it.”
He added: “But, we still feel that in some countries where the registration process is efficient, if you have a large quantity of unregistered products, you have to question why is the registration process is so inefficient. People are not registering it. Therefore, it is logical and reasonable to conclude that it may well be counterfeit.”
Rahaman claimed in TT, it usually takes about five years for an item to be registered.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, meanwhile, questioned about Ali-Shah’s claim during a health fair in Port-of-Spain, yesterday, said CARIRI has not informed him officially about the situation.
“I am not going to get into those things this morning (yesterday),” he told reporters. “This morning (yesterday) is a celebration of the Ministry of Health bringing health care delivery to people. There are so many issues we could speak about at another time. But let’s focus on some good news for a change.”
Pressed for a response to the issue, Deyalsingh said: “It is for people like CARIRI to really inform us. I have seen nothing official from CARIRI. So, let CARIRI send me something official and we will act.”