Mr Pierre Souverain, Director of Pfizer, Global Security, European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA), has called on African leaders to wage war against illicit drug use.
He said illicit drug use has become a global phenomenon which would require varying strategies and programmes to deal with the problem.
Mr Souverain said in the year 2014, about 246 million people world-wide were estimated to have used illicit drugs, including the use of cannabis, stimulants, opioids such as heroine.
He was speaking at a two-day inter-Agency Consultative Forum on strategies for countering counterfeiting drugs and substance abuse held in Accra.
It was on the theme: “Effective Strategies for Countering Counterfeit Drugs and Substance Abuse.”
Mr Souverain said while ensuring that regulated drugs were available for medical and scientific purpose, it was important to prevent diversion of drugs for illicit use and abuse.
The leaders should also entrench the existing laws if not punitive enough or formulate new ones where there are not, to fight counterfeiting and fake drugs so as to save lives and the huge sums of money lost to illicit drug trading.
The Director of the European Union Agency, responsible for the protection of public health through the scientific evaluation and supervision of medicines in Europe, the Middle East and Africa said, the drugs came in the form of tablets, capsules or syrups.
Mr Souverain explained that the counterfeits came in nice but not ugly packages that would make consumers suspicious, which put their lives at risk.
He said the onus lied on mostly leaders in Africa and the Middle East to put in proper legislation to curb smuggling of counterfeit drugs from the borders and the porosity between street markets and pharmacies.
There should be a forged effective partnership with enforcement among neighbouring countries, by sharing intelligence as well as seize those being smuggled, the Director added.
He stated that at least, 83 Pfizer products had been targeted thus; Europe was doing its part and revealed that it recently intercepted 75,000 fake tablets from China meant for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is still disrupting criminal networks from China, India, Pakistan, among others, he added.
Mr Souverain disclosed that the global fight had also detected that criminals shipped the products sometimes packaged in stuffy chairs, suitcases, rice cookers, teddy bears or in television packages.
Mr Vigil Prah-Ashun, Principal Regulatory Officer of the Food and Drugs Authority Ghana, said substandard drugs had wrong or different active ingredients, toxin or undisclosed substances harmful to the body and must be discarded.
The deceptive advertisement or sale of herbal, food supplement and devices as being effective to diagnose, prevent, cure and treat or mitigate a disease process or provide some other health benefits but not scientifically proved as stated, was a challenge to FDA, he said.