Fakes: another serious threat to our lives

Fakes: another serious threat to our lives

A visual inspection of the throat confirmed that tonsillitis was the problem. He took the kid to a nearby hospital and the doctor who examined the kid concurred with the parent in the diagnosis. The appropriate medicine was prescribed and the parent went home, relieved that the problem would soon end. 

Two days later, faithfully following the instructions as prescribed, there was no improvement in the condition of the youngster. In fact his condition was deteriorating. The fever was getting worse and the parent, concerned about the kid’s life decided to seek a second opinion from a different doctor. He decided not to tell the other doctor of the previous treatment so as not to bias an opinion.

To his surprise, when he got to that hospital’s pharmacy he realized that it was exactly the same medicine as he had been given previously by  the first doctor. Looking carefully at the boxes containing the bottles of syrup, he realized that there were some minor variations in the name on the box. Upon seeking clarification from the pharmacist, he was told that there was really no difference. The pharmacist told him about generic names and ‘trade’ names, something along the lines of ‘Panadol is a paracetamol’.

She assured him that he was buying the genuine article. After a day of using the ‘new’ medicine, the kid showed immediate signs of improvement and recovered fully shortly thereafter. My friend told me that the previous medication had been a ‘fake’ or substandard medical product. He had nearly lost a child because of some greedy and unscrupulous business. How many men, women and children have lost their lives because of substandard medicines is anyone’s guess. It is frightening. These days you go to a spare parts shop for ball joints for your Toyota.

The dealer is likely to give you the following offer: “Kuna za Japan, ‘orijino’ elfusabini. Zipo ‘jenuin’ under licence, elfu hamsini. Kuna feki pia, lakini nzuri tu mzee, elfu thelathini. Bei inapoa. Nikupe zipi?” Our pharmacy counters have the same type of offers: "Unataka Metakelfin? Ya India, Italy, Kenya au Tanzania?” The prices are, of course, different. Unfortunately, it is not only the price and packaging that is different; the quality and potency of the medicine varies greatly.

Within the small area in which I live, two business premises and a residential house have been completely destroyed by fires that have been caused by defective and substandard electrical components or wires. Buying components for electrifying your house is like playing Russian Roulette: same story; "Ipo ya UK, ipo ya UK made in Malaysia under licence, ipo ya UK lakini imetengenezwa China, halafu ipo ya China lakini ni nzuri…China wanauza hata Marekani. Wana vitu vizuri tu.”

Women have been hurt by fake hair driers in saloons. People have been hurt by electrical discharges while using fake cell phones and there are many other incidences resulting from the use of fake or substandard products. The Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) is probably overstretched for resources, but having a ‘ghost’ vehicle inspection outpost in Malaysia does not inspire much confidence in that organization.

The Fair Trade Commission is doing its best; we regularly see their work but prevention is better than cure. One of the solutions is to make most of our own products (locally) so that quality inspections can be done right here in the country before products leave the local factory. Did I say local factory? Ah, I had forgotten about the new power tariffs.  Ends/jer


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