KENYA — Kenyan authorities have issued a grave warning about the presence of counterfeit HIV prevention drugs in the country, specifically Truvada.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board identified two batches (B4033894D and B425875D) falsely labeled as Truvada, a widely used HIV prevention drug globally.

The Board emphasized that the “safety, quality, and efficacy cannot be assured,” and stern legal actions will be taken against those involved in the trade.

This alarming discovery raises concerns about the potential circulation of a significant number of counterfeit Truvada drugs in Kenya, posing a severe threat to public health.

With approximately 1.4 million people living with HIV in Kenya, and 1.2 million on antiretroviral therapy, the challenges in addressing counterfeit medicines are magnified.

The incident mirrors a similar issue faced by authentic Truvada in the U.S. earlier this year, emphasizing the global nature of the problem.

This underscores the urgent need for coordinated efforts to combat the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs, especially those critical for public health.

Even in East Africa’s commercial hub, combating counterfeit drugs proves to be a substantial challenge. Truvada, a crucial medication for treating HIV and as preexposure prophylaxis for high-risk individuals, plays a vital role in public health.

The incident highlights the pressing need for enhanced measures and vigilance to ensure the authenticity and safety of medications, particularly those addressing critical health concerns such as HIV/AIDS.

The warning aligns with concerns raised by Kenya’s National Syndemic Diseases Control Council about a 61% surge in HIV infection rates among individuals aged 15 to 29 between 2021 and 2022.

Health workers across Africa express worries about complacency in the face of improving AIDS treatment, emphasizing the ongoing need for vigilance in addressing HIV/AIDS.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board’s recent recall of children’s syrups over safety concerns adds to the growing signals of potential issues with the quality of drugs in the market.

This year alone, the agency has blacklisted new drugs already in circulation, further highlighting concerns about drug quality in Kenya.

In a related caution, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has warned against the buying and use of a popular drug known as ‘Asali ya wazee,’ allegedly enhancing sex amongst adults.

Thorough tests on the honey-based product revealed significant adulteration, containing high levels of Sildenafil, a conventional active pharmaceutical ingredient prescribed for erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The PPB strongly cautions the public against involvement in the trade, distribution, or use of this product, emphasizing the legal consequences for those found dealing with or distributing these products.

The board underscores the importance of using only approved health products and encourages prompt reporting of suspected substandard and falsified medical products by both the general public and healthcare providers.

Vigilance and adherence to approved medications are crucial in safeguarding public health amid rising concerns about counterfeit drugs in Kenya.

Globally, substandard and falsified medicines pose a grave threat, leading to hundreds of thousands of fatalities.

In Africa alone, 100,000 people die annually from such medicines. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 43 instances of falsified medicines between 2019 and the present, emphasizing the severity of the problem.

Moreover, up to two billion people worldwide lack access to necessary medicines, creating a dangerous vacuum filled by substandard and falsified products.

The WHO highlights the growing complexity of global supply chains and the role of e-commerce in facilitating the purchase of medicines from unauthorized sources, contributing to the rise of substandard and falsified products.

The organization estimates that more than one in ten medicines in low- and middle-income countries are substandard or falsified, spanning pills, vaccines, and diagnostic kits. The WHO states, “No country remains untouched from this issue.”

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