How Kenyan Pharmaceutical Companies Make Big Money Selling Expired Drugs

The worst-hit are drugs packed in phials or bottles, expiry date labels are simply steamed off and replaced with new labels displaying new expiry dates before being offloaded onto the markets for sale to gullible unsuspecting consumers

Some of the companies adversely mentioned as being involved in the fraud (names withheld for now) have been operating in Kenya for a long period of time

Expiry dates on the cartons that contain the drugs are also altered to indicate relevant dates with new markings to show that they contain fresh products.” The whole manufacturing and packaging process is compromised to the disadvantage of the consumer

By The Weekly Vision

Many Kenyans spend billions of shillings each year purchasing fake or even expired drugs a habit that leads to premature deaths, in extreme cases. Importers and packers of the said pharmaceutical products on the other hand smile to the bank enjoying hefty profits at the expense of the unsuspecting consumer.

An in-depth investigation by The Weekly Vision established that most of these companies are located along Mombasa and Enterprise roads among other areas in Nairobi, a convenient location not far away from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) where most of the imports into the country emanate from.

Some of the companies adversely mentioned as being involved in the fraud (names withheld for now) have been operating in Kenya for a long period of time.  According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the Kenya pharmaceutical industry is a growing, highly lucrative business sector, with a lot of opportunities for investors to tap into due to the ever-increasing population. Kenya also enjoys political stability, stable power supply and low inflation rates. The sector is valued at $1 billion.

We were told by insiders that once the drugs expire, they are never disposed of; instead, we sell them on the local market and even regionally. Most neighbouring countries like Tanzania, Uganda South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and even the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) depend on Kenya to supply them with pharmaceutical products

The worst-hit are drugs packed in phials or bottles, expiry date labels are simply steamed off and replaced with new labels displaying new expiry dates before being offloaded onto the markets for sale to gullible unsuspecting consumers. We established that on Mombasa road, there are massive highly protected warehouses where the drugs are stored. We were told by insiders that once the drugs expire, they are never disposed of; instead, we sell them on the local market and even regionally. Most neighbouring countries like Tanzania, Uganda South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and even the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) depend on Kenya to supply them with pharmaceutical products.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board on the spot over expired drugs sold on the Kenyan market

An insider at one of the leading pharmaceutical imports companies based in the industrial area of Nairobi who cannot be named because of his own personal and job security said: “The warehouses in which these drugs are stored are strictly a no go zone even to some of our employees. Even those who work there are searched on entry and exit whenever they report or leave for work including when going for lunch breaks.”

She continued: “Yet we continue getting orders for these products each day, some of the orders run into hundreds of billions of shillings. Expiry dates on the cartons that contain the drugs are also altered to indicate relevant dates with new markings to show that they contain fresh products.” The whole manufacturing and packaging process is compromised to the disadvantage of the consumer.

JKIA plays a central role in the importation of these expired drugs where the operatives also have warehouses and fleets of cargo vehicles to transport the goods to designated warehouses, the conversion of the labels is then secretly executed in the industrial area warehouses and processing plants

The Weekly Vision Investigations established that the mess in the sector is a huge financial gain to the operators who will exploit the system regardless of the human cost.  JKIA plays a central role in the importation of these expired drugs where the operatives also have warehouses and fleets of cargo vehicles to transport the goods to designated warehouses. The conversion of the labels is then secretly executed in the industrial area warehouses and processing plants.

The biggest pharmaceutical manufacturers in Kenya today are Beta Healthcare Ltd, Cosmos Limited, Dawa Limited, Elys Chemical Industries Ltd, GSK, Laboratory and Allied Ltd, Regal Pharmaceuticals Ltd, and Universal Corporation Ltd. There are 35 licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers in Kenya.

The companies produce mostly generic drugs using imported raw materials (Tablets, capsules, creams, ointments and liquids). They serve 30% of Kenya’s local drug needs and export to their neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda etc.

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