An assessment of the role of the health sector stakeholders in creating awareness of the existence and dangers of counterfeit drugs in Kenya
Counterfeiting has become one of the largest world’s largest and most rapidly growing enterprises, a situation that cannot be ignored neither its impact underestimated. While studies in the past have focused on how to control and secure the supply chains, the problem seems to escalate. Lack of knowledge on how to identify counterfeited drugs among consumers is one of the factors that are driving the illegal trade in Kenya. This research sought to assess the role of health sector stakeholders in combating counterfeits drugs in Kenya, by determining the level of awareness of the existence of counterfeit medicine and risks thereof, the approaches used by different stakeholders to combat counterfeits and finally the opportunities that can be explored to further reduce the problem. The study population comprised the pharmaceutical companies registered under the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), professionals working in such organizations as well as consumers buying medicines from the registered pharmacies. The study was carried out as a two-stage research design using a multi-method approach of data collection. The focus in the first stage through questionnaires was on a sample size of 294 registered pharmaceutical distributors and retailers as well as a sample of 400 consumers purchasing the drugs from the pharmacies. A second stage consisting of interviews was done targeting 7 manufacturers and 2 regulators of the pharmaceutical industry in Kenya to get a deeper understanding of the findings in the first stage. The results revealed that there were counterfeit drugs awareness campaigns in place by government, non-governmental organizations, manufacturers and medical professionals, although their effectiveness does not seem to be felt among the consumers who in most cases indicated not being aware of their dangers. The opportunities for creating consumer awareness on counterfeit drugs included increased funding for training and research, educating consumers on how to identify counterfeit drugs and the dangers associated with their use, more collaboration among the stakeholders and full operationalization of Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2008.The recommendations from this study include the need for lobbying to amend the law that defines the counterfeit drugs and providing for stiffer penalties on counterfeits to ensure that reported cases are brought to justice. Areas of further research include conducting similar study in the rural settings of Kenya and determining the costs to stakeholders associated with fighting counterfeit drugs.