are huge amounts of smuggled and faked drugs flooding markets and posing
serious health threats. Although smuggling is found in many countries, a
lot of Yemeni patients were victims of smuggled and faked drugs which
were not appropriate for human use.
“Smuggling is very easy in this country,” an ex-smuggler from Hajah
said. “Anyone can do it at anytime and through any outlets. I worked
four years as a smuggler. I brought many medicines and made them
available in the market. We went even to India for that purpose.” He
continued, “I believe ethical commitment necessitates we should provide
drugs, whatever the cost. I cannot bear hearing that a patient died due
to lack of medicine.”
Describing his method, the ex-smuggler added, “We inquire about a
certain drug that has a high price and which is highly demanded. We
contact our agents to buy this drug at an appropriate price.” He
explained that they then agree on the price at which the drug will be
sold and advertise the drug before it goes on sale.
As to the profit rate, the ex-smuggler said, “An agent in Yemen sells it
for $20. We buy it for $5 and sell it at $10.” He assured he met no
problems during his years working as a drug smuggler in Yemen
Dr. Ahmed Noman, head of Al-Manar Medical Establishment said, “Medicine
in Yemen differs from all commodities, but unfortunately, agents and
manufacturers deal in them as monopolized supplies with no regard for
career ethics. All they care about is profit. As a doctor, I sometimes
go to a pharmacy and buy a drug. I find a queer drawing on the packet
and a name that is neither Arabic nor English, which has no connection
with medicine. If I do not understand such things, what do you expect of
Noman believes the problem is that authorities fail to combat this
phenomenon. “The Ministry of Health, World Health and the Supreme
Authority for Drugs should shoulder the blame for this. The authority
should demand full mandate to carry out studies and evaluate the real
need of developing countries. It is well known that developing countries
follow the policy of ‘prevention is better than cure.’” He added that
the authority should prepare reports on whether agents and factories
suffice the market’s need. “If market need is met with appropriate
quality and price, the smuggler and the forger will be defeated in a
natural manner.” He added that there is no supervision of the smuggler,
the forger or the local drug manufacturer.
Dr. Abdullah Abdulkhaliq, general manager of the Authority for
Medicines, said the authority’s role is to control drug marketing and it
does this within the limited authority they have. He said it is present
at all the country’s ports 24 hours a day, seven days a week, checking
all drugs entering the country. Any medicine entering without the
authority’s coordination and consent is considered inconsistent with
requirements and hence a smuggled drug.
Abdulkhaliq added that combating smuggling is Customs’ duty because it
has authorization. He said their work is consultative and when smuggled
drugs are caught, they often are destroyed in the presence of
authorities and a report written.
Pharmacist Ibrahim Mohamed Al-Haj said supervision is not enough. He
thinks the Minister of Interior and security forces should be involved
in strict surveillance of air, land and sea ports. “The Ministry of
Supply should oblige agents to abide by the prices. The Health General
is responsible for supplying lifesaving drugs and obliging agents to
provide drug supplies.” He added that he often receives offers of
smuggled drugs, noting that fake and smuggled drugs are offered in a
Dr. Ahmed Abdulwahab Al-Shihari, general manager of Shifaco Drug
Company, said, “Drug forgery is an international problem. It is not easy
for ordinary people to distinguish fake drugs. The responsibility
includes the doctor, the pharmacist and the merchant. From a specialized
point of view, we need special standards because medicines now are not
consistent with standards.” As for the motives of this phenomenon
Abdulkhaliq attributed it to absence of drug supervision.
Abdulkhaliq added that local drug manufacturing has covered a wide area
so far, as there are 70 kinds of drugs now being manufactured and
exported. “We found that export is better than conflicts with smugglers
Al-Shihari said the drug law still is pending in Parliament. “Parliament
should use the experiences of neighboring countries,” he added.
The smuggler and the faker are killers
Al-Shihari said application of the law by the judiciary is good, but
there is some inattention that costs the plaintiff and the claimant a
Al-Shihari added that they want to activate the outcome of the debate
organized by Yemeni drug producers, Sana’a University and the Supreme
Authority to combat smuggling. The Prime Minister said in that debate
that the smuggler and the faker are killers deserving death sentences.
Some seek to excuse smugglers because of the lack and monopoly of the
drug, but there is no excuse for fakers.
Abdulkhaliq said one reason for forging a drug is its good reputation.
He added that faking began with the most consumable and rare drug types,
then included others. He explained that if they discover a faked drug,
they issue a warning and distribute it to all markets. He said the
authority is exerting efforts to control the medicine market and
encourage local production, so Yemeni markets will be free of poisons,
smuggling and faking.
Do not blame the patient
Why do faked and smuggled medicines have good marketability? Noman said
he had a former patient who used a certain type of medicine that had no
side effects. He said the medicine disappeared from pharmacies, so the
patient bought local medicine. The result was that he suffered stomach
Other reasons for marketability are price differences. For instance,
medicines sold by an agent cost 4,000 YR, while smuggled ones cost only
1,500 YR. One cannot blame the patient if he chooses the smuggled drug.
An unnamed pharmacist said faking is far more serious than smuggling.
“Faking can only be discovered through its side effects on the patient.
A patient using a faked drug may suffer materially and in his health. He
may be compelled to visit another doctor and try other drugs because the
faked drug was ineffective.”
When asked about smuggled medicines, the pharmacist said, “There is
smuggling and there are smuggled drugs. This happens because an agent
monopolizes the drug to raise the price. This motivates smugglers to
provide the alternative.”
The pharmacist noted that he receives offers to buy smuggled drugs. When
asked about the role of supervision, he said, “There is supervision but
it is used as a means for unlawful profit.”
There is no medical legislation
Noman believes there is lack of supervision. He said supervision is the
responsibility of the Ministry of Health and the authority. “The
authority should expose any imported drug to examination,” adding that
the phenomenon indicates there is a defect in the supervision system.
Where are smuggled drugs marketed and how do they enter?
An ex-smuggler answered that he used to market his smuggled medicine in
20 of the most famous governorates’ markets. As for entrance, he said
there are more than 80 land and sea inlets through which smuggled drugs
“My father paid dearly for my last fake drug”
The ex-smuggler said the last fake drug he smuggled was Indian insulin.
He distributed it in the markets and to his father, who bought it as a
diabetes patient. The result was that his leg wound aggravated because
of the fake drug and doctors were compelled to amputate it. He wishes
such a situation would happen to every smuggler so they will give up
smuggling. “Smuggling is like giving your relatives direct doses of
poison,” he lamented.