Friday 19 July, 2019

Fake Viagra, pills prompt calls for greater security at ports

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has called for improved monitoring at the nation's ports to prevent the importation of illicit pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and other items.

Speaking during a news conference on Friday, Deyalsingh took note of issues raised by representatives of Crime Stoppers International (CSI) which recently launched an initiative aimed at combating illicit trade in Trinidad and Tobago.

Cigarettes and pharmaceuticals were listed among the top items being brought illegally into this country.

Officials from CSI stated that bogus or counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs were being brought in and sold cheaply to unwitting consumers.

Viagra and birth control pills are among the most popular counterfeit drugs and are either ineffective or downright dangerous, CSI said.

Other bogus/unregulated items being traded in T&T are alcohol, clothing, fuel and other items.

Deyalsingh said that this "suitcase trade" was nothing new and has been happening for many decades. But he said it was not the Ministry's jurisdiction and must be tackled at the source.

"The primary responsibility for curbing this lies with the agencies that man our ports of entry and also with the pharmacy board which has control over the practice of pharmacy," Deyalsingh said.

"We at the Ministry of Health will be quite willing to work with our sister agencies and the pharmacy board to bring about a resolution to this. But the primary responsibility lies at our borders. You would have seen recently at a Joint Select Committee where we have scanners lying down at the port for three years and can't be used. These are the tools than can be used."

He said the problem extended far beyond pharmaceuticals.

"We have container loads of counterfeit cigarettes coming into this country that are even more dangerous than the legal products. Because these cigarettes that are coming in have all sorts of chemicals in it that are even more dangerous than the regular cigarettes. And these come in not through the airport in a suitcase. These come in by the container loads. And it is a serious public health hazard."

Asked how consumers could avoid being sold counterfeit cigarettes, Deyalsingh said simply stop smoking.

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