SL Pharma Chamber, US Embassy, NIPO and AMCHAM unite to combat counterfeit drugs

Thursday, 28 October 2010 04:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis says that she has always seen the issue of counterfeiting as an example of corruption, in which the makers of counterfeit drugs or other goods cheat the public often with the collaboration of Government officials, merchants and others.

She was speaking at a seminar organised by the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI), the US Embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and the National Intellectual Property Office (NIPO), funded by the US Department of State, the SLCPI and AMCHAM.

This was held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo last week.

The workshop had a large number of participants who consisted mainly of pharmacists, pharmacy owners and pharmaceutical students. Other participants included representatives of Sri Lanka Customs, the CID and industry specialists.

Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Butenis said that buying, selling, distributing or using counterfeit drugs – fake drugs – could lead to serious and even life threatening consequences.

She said that she was pleased to see Customs officials present at the event. “You play a vital role in stopping fakes before they reach the market.”

She also thanked the CID officers at the seminar, stating that catching those who are selling fake drugs was just as important.

“In tackling this menace you are not only protecting the health and safety of the citizens of this country, you are also battling corruption, another corrosive menace to society,” she said.

“Now I want to be clear: Virtually every country in the world is grappling with the scourge of fake, counterfeit and unregistered drugs – Just as Sri Lanka is. This is a problem online too, with emails offering all kinds of prescriptions drugs over the internet. It is important that when a person goes to the pharmacy to purchase medicine for a sick family member, or orders medicine from an on-line provider that he or she can be certain that the medicine is genuine. And for that reason, I’m particularly pleased to see the active participation of Sri Lanka’s pharmacists, chemists, pharmacy students and pharmacy owners today. As you know you play perhaps the most critical role in this matter.”

SLCPI President Ananda Samarasinghe giving the welcome speech said: “In this modern society any product that is widely used is copied by unscrupulous individuals targeting unsuspecting users with the sole purpose of making quick money.”

An important point he brought up was that the area which was most vulnerable to counterfeiters was generic drugs (both branded generic and generic-generic) since the innovator drugs are less likely to be faked.

He stressed on the fact that it was the common man who is hardest hit by this due to the affordability factor and thanked the Minister for gracing the workshop since it would give the right signals to everyone concerned about the seriousness of the issue.  

“Sri Lanka is particularly susceptible to the entry of these illegal or fake drugs as there is a huge counterfeit market operating just across the Palk Strait. While neighbouring India is also known to manufacture some of the best quality medicinal drugs in the world, we also know about the many cottage industries which operate in their domestic backyards. These illegal entities produce dangerous fake drugs which are slipped across the border to find their way into our pharmacies and hospitals, finally into the hands of our defenceless families, creating havoc in the otherwise extremely advanced healthcare system in Sri Lanka,” stated Samarasinghe

He also said that the decision to be a part of this initiative was unanimously made by the SLCPI Council and stressed that these workshops were important not only to the industry but to everyone in this country and that some key decisions made at their conclusion would be gradually notified to the public.

The event, which was also attended by the Minister of Health Maithreepala Sirisena, was the first of a series of four workshops scheduled to be held in various parts of the island in the coming months.

Secretary to the Ministry of Health Dr. Ravindra Ruberu, President of the SLCPI Ananda Samarasinghe, Director General NIPO Dr. D.M Karunaratne, President AMCHAM Vijay Ratnayake and Director of the Medical Technology and Supplies – Ministry of Health Dr. B.V.S.H Beneragama and Director of the Drugs Regulatory Authority were amongst other dignitaries present.

Drug companies pay 17,000 US doctors

Washington: More than 17,000 doctors and other healthcare providers have taken money from seven major drug companies to talk to other doctors about their products, a joint investigation by news organizations and non-profit groups found.

More than 380 of the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals took in more than $100,000 in 2009 and 2010, according to the investigation released on Tuesday.

The report said far more doctors are likely to have taken such payments, but it documented these based on information from seven drugmakers. The payments are not illegal and usually not even considered improper. But the investigation by journalism group ProPublica, Consumer Reports magazine, NPR radio and several publications showed doctors were sometimes urged to recommend “off-label” prescriptions of drugs, meaning using them for conditions they are not approved for.

And the report points to several studies showing that even small gifts and payments to doctors can affect their attitudes, and many companies have stopped giving out once-common gifts such as pens, cups and other objects carrying drug brand names. “Tens of thousands of U.S. physicians are paid to spread the word about pharma’s favored pills and to advise the companies about research and marketing,” the group says in its report, available at

The groups used information from seven drugmakers -- AstraZeneca, Cephalon, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer . “Some of the companies were forced to disclose this information as a result of legal settlements; others released it voluntarily,” Consumer Reports said.

It said more than 70 other pharmaceutical companies have not disclosed payments made to doctors, although the healthcare reform law passed in March will require them to do so by 2013. “This investigation begins to pull back the shroud on these activities,” Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a statement. “The amount of money involved is astounding, and the ProPublica report’s account of the background of some of the physicians is disturbing.”

Drug companies often say they pay expert physicians to educate their peers about drugs and conditions. These sessions are often seminars held alongside major medical meetings but sometimes they involve briefings at vacation resorts. ProPublica said a review of state medical board disciplinary records found more than 250 of the doctors paid to speak had been sanctioned for activities such as inappropriately prescribing drugs or having sex with patients. It said 40 others had been warned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for research misconduct, had lost hospital privileges or were convicted of crimes.