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Hello, I’m Thomas Locke and this to Five Minutes.

In this podcast, I want to bring you closer to the people fighting malaria. To kickstart Series 2, I’m joined by Stellar Murumba, a Kenyan journalist.

She’s been involved in an investigation into substandard antimalarial drugs. Her journalism has resulted in the Kenyan Health Ministry to recall Duo-Cotecxin, a commonly used antimalarial.

Stellar Murumba, thanks for joining me.

Thank you for having me, Thomas.

In 2017, it was announced that the anti-malaria malarial drug, Duo-Cotecxin, would be recalled from the Kenyan market due to substandard quality. How did that decision come about and what was your involvement?

My involvement came about because I have been doing an investigation on counterfeit medicines in Kenya and it’s an ongoing investigation by Code For Africa ImpactAFRICA Fund, called Chokers. In 2017, I managed to do random sampling of antimalarial drugs in pharmacies in Nairobi, the Capital City of Kenya. Among the drugs was Duo-Cotecxin and some other antimalarial drugs. The samples were then subjected to laboratory tests which were done from an accredited laboratory in Nairobi and the test results showed that there was a batch of drugs that were substandard, meaning that there were issues with the ingredients it claimed to have. From that, we did a media report and then the Health Minister said that they were going to recall the drug by fast shipping. This batch of drugs is not just located in Nairobi alone but can be found anywhere. Because of the expiry dates that it had, which was indicated as May 2017 and it came out in January, there was a likelihood that the drug was still on the market so there was a need for checking it and doing analysis in the field and once that was confirmed, the drug was going to be recalled from the market.

How prevalent are these substandard or counterfeit drugs in Kenya?

That is something that we are trying to ascertain because it’s an ongoing investigation. As of now, we are not able to say how many fake antimalarial drugs that we have. But from our last investigation done by the industry players, they said that there is an estimate of 20% of all medicines, not just antimalarial drugs, all medicines in Kenya are counterfeit.

Wow, 20%?

Yeah, 20% of all medicines in Kenya are counterfeit. That’s according to research published back in June 2017.

What went wrong to allow this batch of antimalarial drugs to get onto the Kenyan market?

There are many loopholes could be in the country so we can expect fake medicines coming into Kenya.

Stellar, thank you.

As we finish today’s podcast, I’d like to provide an overview of the situation. The decision to recall Duo-Cotecxin follows investigations by Nation in collaboration with the Code for Africa impactAFRICA, which revealed that a particular batch of the drug, batch number 160621, which is widely in circulation, failed an assay test, making it substandard and fake.

The drug samples that were purchased from a pharmacy outlet in Nairobi were manufactured by a Chinese firm and were due to expire in a few months time and posed grave health risks to consumers.

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Five Minutes. Tune in next week for another exclusive interview and remember that you can subscribe to this podcast on a host of podcast platforms, head to www.fightmalaria.co.uk for all the details