Fake test kits, inferior drugs, low-grade PPEs make winning COVID-19 war difficult —Experts
Health experts in frontline battle against Covid-19, have said that while the coronavirus pandemic presents a difficult situation globally, counterfeiters have used the situation to enrich themselves.
At an emergency press briefing in Abuja, the experts said that it was against the safety of frontline health workers and wellbeing of the general public in the fight against COVID-19.
They noted that criminals and counterfeiters have engaged in the sale and distribution of fake and substandard pharmaceutical products, especially Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, such as face masks, sanitisers and gloves; as well as test kits, drugs and food products.
They raised the alarm that if not checked, the criminals ‘activities could expose health workers to coronavirus as they unwittingly use fake and substandard medical product, especially PPE, test kits, disposable latex gloves and face masks.
It was learnt that members of the public, who were being treated with the fake drugs risk morbidity or mortality.
The topic of the briefing which was titled 'Viral marketing of counterfeits, substandard goods and intellectual property crime in the COVID-19 pandemic,’ revealed that criminals and counterfeiters cash in on the shortage of genuine pharmaceutical products to expand their illegal enterprise.
“Criminals have been quick to adapt their product portfolios to exploit shortages of genuine products, such that a high volume of the products used in the fight against Covid-19 are mostly substandard,” Dr. Gaius Okhiria warned.
According to them, the products currently in high demand in the fight against COVID-19 that are being faked, are hand sanitisers, disinfectants, alcohol -based gels, soaps, and disinfectant cleaning wipes, among others.
It was gathered that drugs, such as antivirals medications for arthritis, antimalarial and herbal remedies, are among those faked and distributed by the counterfeiters and criminals.
Citing examples of activities of counterfeiters, the experts noted that the French law enforcement authorities had identified several websites offering the sale of COVID-19 blood spot screening tests, which claimed to be able to deliver a result within two minutes.
It was also confirmed that the counterfeiting of chloroquine, which had shown some promise as treatment for COVID 19, are still in circulation.
“Most of these offers were made online. An analysis of the websites and companies offering suspected counterfeit chloroquine revealed recurrences in the telephone numbers used to advertise, almost all had the dialing code of the United States".
The experts further noted that some of the counterfeit products being distributed globally put at risk the lives and safety of frontline workers in healthcare and other essential sectors in the fight against Covid-19.
“Prices for those products vary and may be higher or lower than the price of similar items in physical markets, depending on demand or the desire of vendors to attract new customers".
It was also learnt that food and vitamin supplements are also faked. Food and vitamin supplements are also counterfeited, and contain harmful ingredients.