BULGARIA IS A LEADER IN ILLEGAL PHARMACY
Back in January 2004 the British daily Independent wrote that Bulgaria was one of the leaders in the production of illegal medicines. After a circumstantial research in almost all European countries the inspectors of several international pharmaceutical companies established that fake drugs had the largest market share in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey. They reported also about the existence of numerous illegal pharmaceutical factories and warehouses in the country. And experts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that things would be worsening because Bulgaria is an excellent place for illegal production and smuggling due to its closeness to Russia, which is the main territory for dispensing counterfeits. Almost a year after these warnings the problem remains unsettled and even deepens, experts from the top pharmaceutical companies in our country are adamant. Police reports are sufficient proof of that. The most recent striking case was in end-November when officers from the Russian service for combating organized crime stopped the operation of a big firm, occupied in the sale of non-certified and fake medicines. A considerable part of these medicines have been imported from Bulgaria, criminologists from Moscow are convinced. According to their information, the annual turnover of the firm in question exceeded USD200MN.The Bulgarian Executive Agency of Medicines admits the fact about the illegal production and dispensing of drugs. The agency's personnel and our resources are not enough for exerting efficient control, its Director Dr. Emil Hristov says. The institution has only 36 inspectors on pay-roll at present, while pharmacies and warehouses in the country exceed 5,000. That ratio should be improved before Bulgaria joins the European Union (EU), Dr. Hristov points out. According to him, a new law on medicines and pharmacies in human medicine must be drafted as well, in compliance with EU standards. In fact, Bulgarian legislation is already in harmony with that of the EU, but it does not work, commented Tihomir Kamenov, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Trade League - National Pharmacy Centre. Although it is a frequent practice in Bulgaria for drugstores to sell fake medicines, not a single licence has been revoked so far, Mr. Kamenov recalled. In his opinion, the only way for counterfeits to be pushed out of the market is to encourage good-quality licensed production of original medicines. Leading international pharmaceutical companies will thus be involved in the elimination of evil practices. The problem with the import of fake medicines is not legally regulated and the State authorities should do their job, Vladimir Afenliev, Executive Director of Actavis, believes. The restriction of that illegal import should be a priority of pharmaceutical regulations in Bulgaria, he underlined. Mr. Afenliev proposed that in the course of their education pharmacists should be trained as well in the sphere of legal regulations and even to open a new speciality - inspector in the pharmaceutical industry. Principally, counterfeit medicines are produced and sold on larger scale in Eastern Europe and Russia than in the EU, noted Greg Perry, Director General of the European Generic medicines Association. In order to stop that process introduction of maximum control on the network of pharmacies is necessary and wakening the public conscience on the part of wholesalers, who are key participants in the system, Mr. Perry proposes. All experts are unanimous that urgent measures should be undertaken for restricting the production and dispersing of fake medicines. However, nobody has come out with a clear and overall idea about how that could be realized.