Indonesia 'hub' for fake drugs

Large quantities of counterfeit medicines are being sold through pharmacies and on the internet in Indonesia, the body representing pharmacists in the country has warned.

Signs and packages of fake medicines such as Viagra and Valium for sale on the streets. The Indonesian Pharmacists Association is concerned about the prevalence of fake drugs distribution hubs in Jakarta, Surabaya, East Java, and Medan, North Sumatra. (EPA Photo)

According to the Indonesian Pharmacists Association (IAI), there are fake drugs distribution hubs in Jakarta, Surabaya, East Java, and Medan, North Sumatra.

IAI secretary-general Nurul Falah said the spread of counterfeit drugs in the country was unrelenting, despite raids and attempts to tackle the issue by the authorities. 

“We have tried our best to curb the distribution of fake drugs but those sold in pharmacies are hard to detect because they resemble the real thing,” Nurul told the Jakarta Post

“It is believed that these counterfeit drugs enter the pharmacies through freelance drugs salespeople.”

Research by the Victory Project, conducted by the University of Indonesia’s urology department in 2011, showed that erectile dysfunction drugs were the most commonly counterfeited. 

The research, sponsored by drug manufacturer PT Pfizer Indonesia, manufacturers of Viagra, showed that the drug sildenafil – an erectile dysfunction drug sold as Viagra among other trade names – was sold in pharmacies, roadside stalls and online. Of 518 tablets bought from the 157 outlets, researchers found 45% of the samples were counterfeit.

Nurul argued that the quantity of fake medicine in circulation is likely to rise further because many pharmacies lack the equipment to detect counterfeit drugs, while some pharmacists work for up to four pharmacies concurrently.

“If they work in four pharmacies simultaneously, they will face problems in monitoring the drugs sold there,” he said. 

“In the near future, we will provide training to pharmacists to monitor the distribution of fake drugs. We will also use special devices to detect fake drugs to prevent counterfeit drugs from being sold in pharmacies next year.” 

Melva Louisa, a researcher from the University of Indonesia’s pharmacology department, said drugs to treat headaches and pain are also frequently counterfeited, adding that the issue is affecting other developing countries in Southeast Asia.

Widyaretna Buenastuti, chairwoman of the Indonesia Anti-Counterfeiting Community, argued that relevant agencies should raise the issue of the transnational medicine trade at the Asia-Pacific Economic Community Forum in Bali in October.

“The international trade in counterfeit medicine must be addressed together to prevent a developing country, such as Indonesia, from becoming a conduit for the illegal medicine trade,” she said.

Related search: Indonesia, fake drugs, counterfeit, Viagra, pharmaceuticals, Indonesian Pharmacists Association

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