La nature humaine
In Senegal eliminating the sale of unregulated or counterfeit medicines will take better laws and law enforcement, but as long as poor people have children getting sick sales will thrive, experts and residents say.
Street vendors across the country sell products of questionable quality smuggled in from other countries - in many cases outright fakes - or hawk medicines sold to them by pharmacists seeking illegal profits. In both cases consumers are at risk.
Aboubakrine Sarr, president of the private sector pharmacists’ union in Senegal, said there are no statistics on the impact, but “the free-for-all illegal street sale of aspirin packets wreaks havoc”.
Aspirins, antibiotics, Viagra, painkillers, anti-parasitic pills and many others can be found anywhere - improperly stored and sold by people who cannot advise on dosage or side-effects.
Many Dakar residents are aware of the risks but people IRIN spoke to said they had no choice.
Asked what mothers do when a child falls ill, Adama Ndiaye, a mother of four in Dakar’s Pikine neighbourhood, told IRIN: “We lose our minds. We’ve got no money for prescriptions.”
A neighbour, Mariama Niass, who sells sweets and trinkets in front of her home, said: “You go to the doctor and let’s say you’ve set aside 300 CFA francs [64 US cents] for the consultation. Then the doctor prescribes medicines costing 10,000, 7,000, 3,000 CFA francs [$6 to $21]. You come back home. You see the children. And you haven’t yet prepared dinner. You must use whatever money you have to buy rice and other items for a meal... The medicines that are sold in the streets - we all have been advised not to buy them, but we have to, because we can’t buy prescriptions.”
Efforts fall short
In July the Economic Community of West African States, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union published a guide to help states combat the unregulated sale of medicines, but there is a gap between