Are fake drugs manufactured in China being pushed into various African countries with the `Made in India' tag? The Indian government
has long suspected this to be the case, but it now has definite evidence for the first time.
Last week, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria issued a press release stating that a large consignment of fake anti-malarial generic pharmaceuticals labelled `Made in India' were, in fact, found to have been produced in China.
New Delhi has registered ``strong protest'' with the Chinese mission and China's foreign trade ministry, according to sources in the commerce ministry.
India's High Commissioner in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mahesh Sachdev, had earlier written to then commerce secretary GSK Pillai, alerting him to the large seizure: ``While this is a case of a Chinese company exporting fake `Made in India' labelled medicines which has been accidentally exposed, it is unlikely to be an isolated incident. Indeed there is no reason for Nigeria to be the only country to be receiving such consignments.''
His letter went on to say: ``Fake foreign-made generics carrying `Made in India' label can do tremendous harm to our interests. It not only dents our image and takes our legitimate market share, it also erodes the distinction between generic and fake medicines that we have been campaigning for at WHO and WTO''.
Commerce ministry sources said: ``We have had many complaints about such fake drugs from China being offloaded as Indian drugs in countries like Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and West Africa — in general, where India has a substantial market share. But so far there has been no formal complaint. This is the first time that such a large international consignment has been seized and this will be taken up strongly with the Chinese side.''
Sachdev in his letter said that he had spoken to the director-general of NAFDAC Dr Paul Orhii who said that the Nigerian preference for generics made such cases of fake drugs more common. He expressed NAFDAC's determination to curb circulation of substandard fake medicines.
India and China have been held primarily responsible for fake drugs in the Nigerian market in particular and Africa in general. About 60% of drugs in Nigeria are imported. Between 2001 and 2007, more than 30 Indian and Chinese companies were banned in Nigeria for exporting fake drugs to the country.
However, Dr Mira Shiva of the Initiative for Health Equity and Society (IHES) told TOI that both India and China being large manufacturers of generics, multinational firms would look to discredit the two countries and label their drugs as substandard, so that they would have greater access to the African markets. She warned against the two countries trying to run each other down before ascertaining the full facts in the case to rule out any orchestration, but added that India ought to be more careful to ensure the quality of the drugs exported as well as sold domestically.