The Star/Asia News Network
The Health Ministry’s Pharmacy Enforcement Division (PED) conducts interactive exhibitions and public lectures, and works closely with the Education Ministry to disseminate information to students on the health risks posed by unregistered health products.
“To combat the sale of counterfeit medicines in Malaysia, enforcement officers carry out routine and scheduled inspections, entry-point checking, market sampling, and conduct raids to seize and confiscate unregistered products,” says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
PED is involved in Operation Pangea, Interpol’s annual cooperative effort with law enforcement and customs agents from throughout the globe, which targets illicit drug trafficking through the Internet.
Last year, during Operation Pangea VII here, 295 websites and social networking sites were found selling unregistered medicines, adulterated health products and cosmetics. More than 45,000 parcels were seized with an estimated value of RM830,000.
There’s also the annual Operation Storm, targeted at South-East Asian countries. The purpose of the enforcement action is to protect consumers from sub-standard and dangerous medicinal products.
The fifth operation, Storm V, was conducted for a month last August. The result: 851,500 items valued at RM4.1mil were seized.
To curb the rise of counterfeit medicine, Dr Noor Hisham explains that pharmaceutical products must be registered with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau.
“To enhance security and combat counterfeiting; a hologram known as Meditag security label was made mandatory and required to be attached to each medical product. Despite these measures, counterfeiters have found ways to imitate this hologram and marketed their products as genuine ones,” he says.
Since then, the hologram features have been improved and enhanced to differentiate between genuine and fake ones. The government has also initiated the “Know Your Medicine” campaign to increase public awareness on the rational use of drugs.
The nationwide campaign focuses on educating the public on knowing the authenticity of drugs and obtaining medical products from a legal source.