To bring into focus the grave concerns about the menace of counterfeiting, a seminar was held on “Combating Counterfeits” in Karachi on June 05. The purpose of the seminar was to invite attention to the current status of counterfeiting in Pakistan and the steps needed to address the situation.
The seminar was organized by Helpline Trust, a not-for-profit organization, with the primary purpose of consumer protection and public awareness. The event brought together speakers representing the
food, beverage and pharmaceuticals industries, as well as government agencies such as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority (PSQCSA).
Hamid Maker, Founder Trustee, Helpline Trust, said that counterfeit products are produced with the primary objective of cutting costs and maximizing returns. The aspects of quality, safety and cleanliness are ignored and consumers are thus defrauded. He further said that with the trend of counterfeiting on the rise, Pakistan’s image was being tarnished and had made the international community vary of investments in Pakistan. The damages are further magnified as the government loses billions of rupees in tax revenue as the counterfeit manufacturers are not registered as tax payers.
Counterfeit drugs are a global challenge and the severity can be gauged in light of the World Health Organization (WHO) report that counterfeit malaria and tuberculosis drugs alone result in 700,000 deaths a year globally. Moreover, up to 10 percent of the world’s pharmaceutical trade (30% in developing countries) comprises fake medicines. The global market for spurious drugs is estimated to be valued at $431 billion. According to the Federal Drug Authority (FDA) of the United States, up to 25 percent of all drugs consumed in poor countries are labeled counterfeit or substandard.
The seminar waa chaired by Justice (R) Majida Rizvi, who is also a trustee of the Helpline Trust and the Law Foundation. She reemphasized the damaging effect of counterfeit products on Pakistan’s image at the global level. She said counterfeiting is a violation of intellectual property rights and asked for strict consumer protection laws to combat counterfeiting and provide protection to industry as well as consumers.
The Executive Director of the Pharma Bureau, Ayesha Tammy Haq stressed the need for dealing strictly with the issue of counterfeiting. “The Interior Ministry had informed the National Assembly sometime back that 50% of all medicines in Pakistan are either counterfeit or substandard,” she said. “According to the US Customs and Border Protection, in 2011-12 Pakistan was the largest source of counterfeit goods in the country,” she added.
Assistant Director of the FIA, Anwar Qureshi, briefed the participants on the steps the agency has taken against manufacturers indulging in counterfeiting. He conceded that the resources needed to combat counterfeiting in the country were limited and also pointed out the reluctance of the manufacturers and industry in facilitating FIA crackdowns. He described the hardships and difficulties the agency faces in carrying out inspections and inquiries and pleaded for a much greater role of the FIA in making a difference.
Other speakers at the seminar said the racket of counterfeiting in Pakistan was flourishing as the laws were not stringent enough. Unscrupulous individuals find it a low-risk, high-return means of investment as they can get away with malpractices without much fear from the law enforcement agencies.
An appeal was made to the new government to treat the matter on top priority and take due actions to stem the flow of counterfeit products in the market as the menace poses a risk to the consumers of Pakistan and is also damaging the image of the country.