As research shows massive flooding of fake malaria drugs into sub Saharan Africa, the Tanzania Foods and Drugs Authority( TFDA) has cited global technology advancement as the major factor to blame.
The TFDA observation has come only a week after President Jakaya Kikwete told pharmacists in Dar es Salaam last week that too much importation of drugs creates a loophole for some fake ones to find their way into the country.
According to President Kikwete, over 70 per cent of drugs used in the country are imported from outside the country as production within borders is minimal.
The observation from both the president and TFDA has come exactly a month after BBC News online reported that a third of malaria drugs used around the world to stem the spread of the disease are counterfeit.
It was stated further that US researchers from Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, who carried out the work, believe the problem may even be much greater than data suggests.
Researchers who looked at 1,500 samples of seven malaria drugs from seven countries in South East Asia say poor quality and fake tablets are causing drug resistance and treatment failure.
Sub Saharan Africa was also involved in the research work as data from 21 countries in the region, including over 2,500 drug samples, showed similar results.
"Most cases are probably unreported, reported to the wrong agencies, or kept confidential by pharmaceutical companies," researchers were quoted by BBC News Online as saying.
But Bryceson Kibassa, Acting Director Business Support of Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), states that advancement of global technology in various fields contributes towards production of fake medicines, including malaria drugs. He said some large scale industries have been reaping huge profits by producing fake drugs that are sometimes difficult to identify, thwarting global efforts of combating malaria.
He said pharmacy owners, pharmacists and patients have always been finding themselves on the wrong side owing to the fact that technology used in producing fake malaria drugs makes it hard to identify.
He said the authenticity of most drugs is verified through scientific testing. “Usually TFDA registers all imported and home produced drugs that meet the standard.
“But because of global advancement in technology unfaithful businessmen produce fake drugs that look similar to original ones, making it difficult to differentiate them, until they are tested scientifically, ” said Kibassa.
However, he did not disclose how big the problem is or precaution the public needs but urged the people to be careful and buy drugs only from pharmacies that are officially recognized.
He said fake drugs affect the patients in different ways including failure against the disease, long treatment and many health problems if expired drugs are used.
The report posted by BBC News Online late month stated that no large studies of drug quality have been carried out in China or India - countries that house a third of the world's population and are a "probable" source of many counterfeit drugs as well as genuine ones.
According to lead researcher Gaurvika Nayyar, 3.3 billion people were at risk of malaria, which is classified as endemic in 106 countries.
"Between 655,000 and 1.2 million people die every year from plasmodium falciparum infection," he said.
"Much of this morbidity and mortality could be avoided if drugs available to patients were efficacious, of high quality and used correctly."
In parts of the world where the disease is prevalent, ante- malarial drugs are widely distributed and self-prescribed; both correctly and incorrectly say the researchers.
The study found there are insufficient facilities to monitor the quality of anti- malarial drugs and poor consumer and health-worker knowledge about the therapies.
And there is a lack of regulatory oversight of manufacturing and little punitive action for counterfeiters.
Despite this, malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 per cent globally since 2000, and by 33 per cent in the WHO African Region.
But the World Health Organization says maintaining current rates of progress will not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control, calling for renewed investment in diagnostic testing, treatment, and surveillance.