Guyana: Food and Drugs Dept. finds fake drugs at nine premises

 – police called in to help find distributor

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has been called in to assist the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) in its quest to locate a distributor who is manufacturing and selling a number of pharmaceuticals under conditions that are not authorized.

Some of the SF medications

This development comes two weeks after a complaint was lodged with the GA-FDD in relation to the issue at hand resulting in the launch of what has been described as a “prioritized investigation”.   

During a sweep of the markets in and around Georgetown, health inspectors located a number of substandard/falsified (SF) medications at local pharmacies at the root of the investigation.

According to information released by the GA-FDD, inspectors visited 16 pharmacies on August 22, 2019 and August 23, 2019. The SF drugs were found at nine of the locations and these products were seized and removed from the retailed premises.

At the locations a total of 17 boxes of a medication labeled “chanca piedra phosmovite”, sold at an average price of $3,500, which claims to treat gall and kidney stones, clean the liver and the urinary tract were found.

Also found were 28 boxes of a product named “Fungabort”, sold at an average price of $1,000, which claims to be effective in the treatment of nail fungus. In addition, a sum of 23 boxes of “Phosferine”, sold at an average price of $3,000, were also seized and removed from premises.

In the case of some of the drugs found, a manufacturer’s address stated as “Mainland Labs in Canada” and “Phosferine Health Care Co., Toronto Canada” was not established in the database of the Food and Drugs Department. Further efforts to verify the stated address on the labels of other products failed to find any authentic evidence, the Department reported.

Added to this, the drugs found in the pharmacies had their barcodes scanned and none were found to be in the Department’s systems.

Aside from the forgoing, the Department found it necessary to seek the assistance of the Police Force since the retailers had no paperwork which trace back to the distributor or manufacturer of the products.

The Department strongly highlighted that it is a clear breach of the Consumer Affairs Act Section 18: 1-3. It is also a breach of the Food and Drugs Act, Part VI, Chapter 21 which speaks to adequate record keeping for traceability purposes particularly for the sale of medication for patient use.

The Food and Drugs Department is therefore advising all pharmacies to immediately desist from the practice of purchasing and retailing medication to be used by patients from walk-in-salesmen (suitcase traders) who refuse to provide invoices or adequate receipt or other records for traceability purposes.

In an interview with this publication, Food and Drugs Director, Mr Marlan Cole, said that a country-wide sweep will be done to see if the illegal items are being retailed at locations other than the ones reported. Details of the countrywide exercise are likely to be released by next month, he said.

The Department, he said, is currently in a position to aggressively implement measures to protect consumers from the associated dangers of SF medications. To aid its investigations, the Department examined the products individually and the batch numbers and tried to trace these back to the facility where they were manufactured. If that cannot be traced it will confirm the allegation of the item being processed locally.

With the next step being for them to locate the distributor, the Director speculated that such a person operating illegally may be found operating a mini-lab in his or her home, photocopying some labels, buying bottles from another country which is similar to the ones used in Guyana which are then pasted on to labels before distributing them for sale.

According to Cole, if the distributor is found to be operating under illegal circumstances legal actions will be taken for him to be prosecuted. Currently the punishment for such acts incur a fine of up $30,000 along with six months’ imprisonment.

Kaieteur News had reported that ingredients used, in some of the products, could be detrimental to end users. This is according to a source familiar with the state of affairs.
Information provided to this publication reveal that one of the products sold is made with ‘Caustic Soda’ better known as Sodium Hydroxide which is broken down as an ingredient of one the products.

Wikipedia says, “Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda, is an inorganic compound. It is a highly caustic base and alkali that decomposes proteins at ordinary ambient temperatures and may cause severe chemical burns.”

Furthermore, another website, ThoughtCo, stated, “Caustic soda is not sold in bulk and in some cases it has been removed from the market because of being used as an ingredient to make illegal drugs.”

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