COTONOU Oct 12 Six African leaders have joined former French President Jacques Chirac in campaigning against the trade in fake medicines that are used widely on the world's poorest continent but threaten patients and state revenues.
Thousands of pharmacies, market stalls or street peddlers sell the cheap, counterfeit drugs. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) says fake or altered anti-malarials alone kill about 100,000 Africans annually while the black market trade means a loss of 2.5-5 percent in government revenues.
"With this appeal, (they) vow to fight against the acceptance of the manufacturing and sale of fake pharmaceutical products," Chirac said of the leaders of Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Central African Republic, Congo-Republic and Senegal.
Chirac, speaking after meeting the heads of mostly former French colonies in Benin on Monday, said the leaders had pledged to support public and private initiatives to raise awareness of the risks of fake drugs and stamp out the trade. Benin's President Yaya Boni said losses to his country's legal pharmaceutical trade totalled 30 billion CFA francs ($67.41 million) a year while the tiny West African nation's government lost out on 5 billion CFA in taxes.
Some 85 percent of the population relied on fake drugs, which they bought from more than 10,000 traders in the streets or markets, Laurent Assogbathe, head of the state health protection agency, added.
The former French leader's Chirac Foundation wants the United Nations to weigh in and ratify a ban on the trade.
The WHO says the trade in illegal drugs is valued around 45 billion euros ($66.22 billion) and represents some 10 percent of the pharmaceutical industry. ($1=445.0 Cfa Franc) ($1=.6795 Euro) (Reporting by Samuel Elijah; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)