LomÉ Initiative Signing

African governments agree to criminalize falsified drugs trafficking

By Vassia Barba contact

- Last updated on GMT

Presidency of the Togolese Republic / Picture taken during the signing ceremony
Presidency of the Togolese Republic / Picture taken during the signing ceremony

Related tags: Africa, Regulations

Heads of state of seven African countries met in Lomé, Togo, to sign the Lomé Initiative, a political declaration to tackle fake medicine distribution on the continent.

The governments of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Uganda, Senegal, and Togo, with the support of the Brazzaville Foundation, a UK-based, non-profit charity organization, have agreed to work on the establishment of a regulatory framework that would criminalize the trafficking of substandard and falsified medicines in Africa.

Delegates at the ceremony explained that legislation to criminalize fake drugs trafficking in African countries is currently either lacking or not sufficient. 

In-PharmaTechnologist travelled to Togo, attended the ceremony and discussed with delegates the nature of the fragile drug supply chain on the continent, and the actions that governmental and regulatory bodies are planning to take to strengthen it.

According to the definitions of the World Health Organization (WHO), substandard medicines include authorized products that fail to meet quality standards or specifications, while falsified medical products deliberately and fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source.

Although monitoring of the size of the issue is challenging, the WHO estimates that falsified medicines account for 30-60% of all medical products in certain African countries.

At his speech during the signing ceremony, the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that antimalarials and antibiotics are among the most commonly falsified medicines, causing the death of more than 280,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa every year.

The WHO has issued 75 alerts of substandard and falsified products since 2012, over two thirds of which were issued in Africa.

“Unethical and criminal operators see Africa as a dumping ground for these [substandard or falsified] medicines,” ​Adhanom continued, citing an incident when Angolan customs officials seized 33 million doses of fake antimalarials hidden inside loudspeakers on a ship coming from China, in 2012.

Criminals involved in trafficking of falsified medicine are also related to terrorism groups and trafficking of weapons.

During a press conference that followed the ceremony, Jean-Louis Bruguiére, member of the Brazzaville Foundation advisory board, stated that “terrorism groups including Hezbollah and Hamas are financed by falsified medicine trafficking, but criminalization is so weak that traffickers are punished with ridiculous fines and sentences."

Therefore, Bruguiére highlighted the urgent need for a strict regulatory framework to be established and enforced through the collaborative work of the states that will be initiated under the signed agreement.

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