Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 9th 2013 Contents A5
Thursday, May 9, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
About 20 per cent of pharma-
ceutical drugs imported into the
country are counterfeit. This can
not only lead to serious side
effects but can kill.
Making the statement was
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan,
who was fielding questions from
members of the media after deliv-
ering the opening address on a
forum focused on the deadly impli-
cations of counterfeit drug traf-
ficking, title, "Making a killing."
The forum was held at the T&T
Chamber of Industry and Com-
merce in Westmoorings yesterday.
Khan said that figure was also
reflected worldwide. He called on
the local pharmaceutical industry
to act with due diligence as those
found guilty of distributing coun-
terfeit drugs could face a charge
"But who is responsible for this
manslaughter? The customs officer
who allowed the drug to come here
without looking at the entry or
accepted a bribe? Is it the phar-
macist who dispensed the drug
from an importer they did not
know? " Khan asked.
To date there have been no
reported deaths or people falling
ill in T&T owing to the use of
And counterfeit drugs were no
longer being brought into the
country by suitcase traders but
were now imported in containers.
Khan said the ministry was
"very much" aware of the problem
and was looking into it.
"The supply chain starts off by
a non-recognised manufacturer,
which is usually a household with
unsanitary conditions, with unsan-
itary packaging, or sometimes a
major industry in a major country
without proper regulators, which
starts off by producing copycat
items and packaging."
Describing the issue as a "real
problem," the Health Minister said
the ministry was compiling a list
of counterfeit drugs available in
the country, the majority of which
were used for cancer.
The list, he added, was expected
to be made public soon.
Asked to identify what specific
counterfeit drugs were available in
T&T Khan said: "I can t give that
exact information. It s quite a bit
of cancer drugs, anti-hypertensive,
anti-diabetics and also anti-biotics.
"There are cancer drugs which
were found to have nothing in
Khan said a high number of
sexual performance enhancers for
men being imported had been
found to contain very high, if not
lethal, doses of Viagra.
He said the concentration of
Viagra was so high it could result
in heart attacks.
Khan said these issues must be
dealt with by the Food and Drug
The FDA, Khan added, was
"quite a couple of decades old"
and therefore did not address many
The minister also sent a strong
message to distributors, warning
if they sold counterfeit drugs they
would be held responsible.
"They would suffer the conse-
quences and the penalties for it.
Not only the pharmacy people but
also the importers and the custom
officers.. .whoever is along that
supply chain to bring the drugs in
"You can t be unknowing
because there is nothing called
unknowing in drugs," Khan said.
When purchasing pharmaceu-
tical drugs, customers should care-
fully examine the labels, packaging,
language and inserts."The drugs
can look as the original but there
are quite a few factors that could
show it is not original.
"Nobody could just distribute a
counterfeit drug and say they don t
know," Khan said.
Saying there was a shortage of
inspectors from the Food and Drug
Division, Khan could not give a
figure of how many comprised the
He said, however, at least 15
more were needed.
"They police not just drugs, they
police food as well. A lot of goods
coming into the country which are
supposed to have English writing
have Chinese writing. They have
to seize those goods and move on
to other places to be inspected."
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, right, chats with Pharmacy Board president Andrew Rahaman, centre, and
medical practitioner Dr Neil Singh, left, at the counterfeit drug-trafficking forum at the T&T Chamber of
Commerce head office, Westmoorings, yesterday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
of bogus drugs
'Distributors face manslaughter charges,
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar confirmed yesterday the
Chaguanas West by-election could be
held during the month of Ramadan
which runs from July 9 to August 9.
Persad-Bissessar was responding to
questions from reporters after a short
visit to the Tranquillity Government
Primary School, Port-of-Spain, where
she wished good luck to the 53 pupils
writing today s Secondary Entrance
Assessment (SEA) exam and presented
them with pencils, erasers, sharpener
and rulers. The gifts were contained in
a yellow plastic kit.
Former national security minister
Jack Warner said on social media on
Tuesday the Chaguanas West by-elec-
tion should not be held during
Asked to respond that request yes-
terday, Persad-Bissessar said: "We have
had elections before in that time. There
is no way...I did not trigger this
process." She said it was triggered by
Warner s resignation.
"Given the Constitution and the
timeframe, it has been triggered in the
month of Ramadan. I cannot go outside
the Constitution to hold it after. I have
to work within the hand that is dealt
She said the 90-day period for the
holding of the by-election ends on
August 10. Speaker Wade Mark is
expected to declare the seat held by
Warner vacant tomorrow. The Consti-
tution provides for the by-election to
be held in no more than 90 days from
Persad-Bissessar said she was advised
that the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday is expected
on either August 9 or 10. "So there is
no way I can change that process, which
was triggered not by my doing and I
would have to follow the Constitution
and the law."
Persad-Bissessar said she would seek
a meeting "with our Muslim brothers
and sisters of that community to see
how best we can do it."
She said: "It will not be the first time
that the election is being held in this
time of the year."
President of the Anjuman Sunat ul
Jamaat Association Yacoob Ali could
not be reached for comment yester-
And the PM also confirmed that the
UNC constitution provided for any
member who contested an election
without the approval of the party to
be expelled. She was responding to
questions on the possible consequences
for Warner if he were to contest the
Chaguanas West by-election as an
Persad-Bissessar also responded to
questions on alleged fights between
Warner and Works and Local Govern-
ment Minister Dr Surujrattan Ram-
bachan, saying she did not agree that
there was more in-fighting in the Unit-
ed National Congress. She said at elec-
tion time members got more excited.
She said it was normal for there to
be different views among party mem-
bers from time-to-time and she didn t
"think it was as bad as was being
Asked if Trade, Industry and Invest-
ments Minister Vasant Bharath was
being favoured to contest the seat for
the UNC, Persad-Bissessar said: "No
candidate has been decided. No can-
didate has been approached by my good
self. I have not spoken to any person
to be or not to be a candidate."
And the PM also said legislation to
amend the Constitution to provide for
enhanced internal self-government for
Tobago, which was laid in Parliament
shortly before the January 21 Tobago
House of Assembly election, is expected
to lapse when Parliament is prorogued
The bill was never debated as the
Opposition said it would not support
it. The Government then said it would
refer the matter to a Joint Select Com-
mittee of the Parliament but the Oppo-
sition refused to take part in that
The Tobago Organisation of the Peo-
ple, which is a member of the People s
Partnership Government, lost the elec-
tion and the measure was never brought
back to the Parliament.
By-election could be
in Ramadan, says PM
The number system proposed by
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to clamp
down on counterfeit drugs will not
work, says Dr Neil Singh of the Health
Services Unit of the University of the
West Indies, St Augustine.
Khan, at a forum on the deadly impli-
cations of counterfeit pharmaceutical
drugs, said the ministry was working
on a policy in which a number system
would be used by importers of phar-
The forum was held at the T&T
Chamber of Industry and Commerce,
A specific number, Khan added, would
be transferred to invoices so as to track
the movement of drugs into the country
to determine whether they were coun-
terfeit or not.
Singh, who also spoke at the forum,
said the method was faulty.
"That s a plaster. You put a number
on a product but who is preventing the
counterfeiter from putting the same
number on the product?" Singh asked.
He said the issue was a much larger
picture which was an unregulated phar-
maceutical industry in T&T.
Saying everyone was getting involved
in the health care business because it
was thriving, Singh said there were stores
selling cosmetic supplies which were
also bringing in pharmaceutical drugs.
"The only stakeholder in the medical
industry who is not regulated is the
pharmaceutical industry. They are
allowed to conduct themselves without
any official regulation," Singh added.
He said several years ago a proposal
was made for distributors to be placed
under the umbrella of the council for
professionals related to medicine so dis-
tributors could be properly licensed. GK
Doctor: Number plan won't work
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