Dubai's medicine tracking system to tackle counterfeit drugs

Dubai Health Authority to implement new protocols for pharma manufacturing process by mid-2020

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 22, 2003, a pharmacist technician counts pills in Winnipeg, Canada, for US citizens who crossed the US-Canadian border to buy cheaper prescription medicines.  The administration os US President Donald Trump unveiled a plan on December 18, 2019, to allow imports of lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, but it was opposed by Ottawa, which said the scheme threatened its own medicine stocks. Americans spend an average of $1,200 on prescription drugs per year -- more than in any other country in the world -- and the US president has made driving down costs a top priority for next year's election. / AFP / JEFF HAYNES
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Medication will be traced from the production line to prescription under a new tracking system in Dubai that aims to improve patient safety by cracking down on fake drugs.

Dubai Health Authority will launch the pharmaceutical track and trace system to closely monitor medicines manufactured in the UAE and elsewhere along the supply chain.

It is the first national heath authority to adopt the system and complements the DHA’s existing barcode labelling for medical products launched in 2017.

Pharmacies across DHA facilities already only dispense and prescribe medication accompanied with a specific barcode.

But the new tracking system is expected to further tighten the drug supply chain and eliminate counterfeit or expired medication and prescription errors.

“The DHA is constantly working on developing its pharmaceutical services to provide quality services for patients and to achieve customer satisfaction,” said Dr Ali Al Sayed, director of the DHA’s pharmaceutical services department.

“We have a clear plan to continue adopting the best and latest systems and technologies to meet the highest international standards, ensuring the safety and well-being of customers.”

The new system is expected to be rolled out at DHA facilities by mid-2020.

New government measures are also being considered to better regulate the pharmaceutical industry.

Legislation under review would mean anyone caught selling counterfeit medicine would face up to five years in prison and fines as high as Dh1 million.

Earlier this year, medics said "falsified and substandard medicines" had become a "public health emergency".

Writing in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, they said up to 10 per cent of drugs in low and middle-income countries were substandard or outright fakes, costing local economies between $10 billion and $200bn a year.

As The National reported last week, pharmacies said they were running low on flu treatment after a sickly start to the winter.

Tamiflu liquid, which is used to treat flu symptoms, was not licensed by the government this year and the tablet form is in short supply.

Smaller pharmacies ran out or had low stock, while hospital dispensaries were better stocked.