Dubai, UAE: The ready availability of prescription drugs over the internet has made it easier for people to abuse them, said a Ministry of Health official on Tuesday.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for public health policy and licensing, said some shipping companies intentionally mislabelled their cargo to avoid getting caught by customs, warning that in some cases, the prescription drugs are counterfeit.
He said more than 70 per cent of prescription drugs seized between 1999 and last year were counterfeit and that most of the drugs came from India, followed by China. The majority of counterfeit medication seized was done so via the mail (29 per cent), while 26 per cent was seized at airports and 17 per cent at land borders.
Dr Suleiman Al Sharif, dean of the faculty of pharmacy, University of Sharjah, said counterfeit drugs were a global problem, but that it was more prevalent in Asian, African and developing countries, where there were poor regulations and law enforcement.
He said 50 per cent of medicines and pharmaceuticals sold through websites were counterfeit and that these medicines were often substandard, containing too much or too little of the active ingredient and so not meeting quality specifications.
According to Dr Ali Al Marzouqi of the National Rehabilitation Centre, in Abu Dhabi, about 2,500 children a day experiment with prescription drugs – and most of them are between the ages of 12 and 13.
He said 2 to 4 per cent of the UAE population misuse prescription medications and the younger a person starts, the higher the risk of addiction.
More than 400 patients were registered with the centre between 2002 and last year, and almost 77 per cent of patients were using more than one substance.
Dr Al Marzouqi said the most abused prescription drug was tramadol, a pain reliever.
The drug issues were discussed at the 11th edition of the Hemaya International Forum, where Dubai Police brings together more than 360 participants from 18 countries over two days to discuss drug problems.
© The NationalJun 2015