There was a hollow ring to this week’s warning from the Government Analyst Food and Drugs Department (GAFDD) regarding the circulation of yet another fake drug, apparently an imitation of Daflon, which the Department says, is used for treating patients suffering from “chronic venous insufficiency” (CVI) and other ailments.
The statement resembled the anguished cry of a drowning man who is under no illusions about any near term prospects of rescue. That has become part of the Department’s standard operating procedure, there being no other readily available viable tool with which to respond to the fake drugs menace.
We are not pointing fingers at the GAFDD here. Truth be told, it exists in a condition where it has been reduced to these belated ‘warnings’ issued long after the offending fake drugs have infiltrated the treatment system – hospitals, clinics etc – and most likely, after they would have already done a degree of damage, the extent of which we remain blissfully unaware.
No one any longer doubts the helplessness of the GAFDD, ill-equipped as it is to fend off the multi-billion dollar behemoth that is the fake drugs industry which now appears to have firmly fixed its tentacles in our patient treatment regime, a circumstance that lends its after-the-fact ‘alerts’ an air of decided absurdity. In effect, the GAFDD’s ‘media alerts’ notwithstanding, the national exposure to the dangers associated with fake drugs represents a closing of the stable doors long after the horses have bolted.
All of this is simply another way of saying that in circumstances where, given our inability to suppress the international fake drugs industry, there is every reason to seek to build the capabilities of the GAFDD to minimise fake drug infiltration, the authorities persist in its quixotic pursuit of tilting at windmills knowing only too well that routinised delayed ‘red alerts’ will not help one iota to solve the problem.
From everything that we know about the fake drugs industry, it is a powerful global enterprise driven by huge profits and apparently subscribed to by institutions some of which do business within the legitimate drugs industry. There are links, as well, with people who are concerned with the commerce rather than the ‘cure’ and who have made deep and damaging inroads into the drug procurement regimes particularly in poor countries, either through the legitimate tendering systems of those countries, or by way of clandestine importation and distribution regimes that place these fake drugs in the medical mainstream.
Over time, the GAFDD has been less than effective in picking up the trail of the perpetrators, or even when it does, neutralising them. This has been largely due to circumstances that have to do either with limited resources or limited clout. This brings us to the matter of the limited human and technical resources at the disposal of the GAFDD over many years (a matter on which this newspaper has pronounced ad nauseam) and more importantly, the inability of government to change this. Then there has also been the difficulty associated with limited collaboration between the GAFDD and the various other oversight and policing agencies, not least the Customs Administration.
The fact is that the fake drugs industry, whether internationally or here in Guyana, is driven by an organisational structure that involves real people, a circumstance that places the responsibility for tackling the problem beyond the sole ambit of the GAFDD. Granted, it may not be as simple as it sounds, but the reality is that there are operators in the fake drugs trade who continue to be quite content to sabotage our national health system, callously and indiscriminately putting at risk the physical well-being and even the lives of people seeking medical care and, as of now, we remain precariously positioned in terms of our ability to turn back this threat.
Though this is by no means the first occasion on which the issue of fake drugs and the impotence of the authorities has been raised here, surely, the impotence of the GAFDD, as reflected in the redundancy of its recent public alert on Daflon provides sufficient attestation to the condition of national impotence in which we presently find ourselves as far as fending off the scourge of fake drugs is concerned. Hopefully, this can propel us in the direction of at least attempting to raise our defences to the level of a somewhat more effective deterrent.