A team of security operatives and officials of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) yesterday arrested 10 peddlers for allegedly selling harmful medicines at Ashaiman in the Greater Accra Region.
The peddlers were arrested at the Ashaiman Lorry Park, where they were suspected to be selling medicines, including tramadol and steroids.
Some medicines were also seized from the traders, mainly women, who were using certificates allegedly issued by the Traditional Medicine Council to sell all manner of medicines and herbal products, including steroids.
The security officials were from the National Security, Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service and the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).
The swoop was carried out as part of a training programme organised by the FDA and supported by UKaid. It was attended by judges, journalists, officials of the Pharmacy Council and prosecutors from the Attorney-General's Department.
A regulatory officer of the FDA, Mr Daniel Tetteh, said Ashaiman was among the communities in the country where unregistered medicines were sold by people between the ages of 15 and 25.
However, during the swoops in a number of communities elsewhere, a number of elderly women were arrested.
Mr Tetteh said the recent crackdown by the FDA had resulted in the reduction of tramadol, particularly, among Nigerien vendors, who carried the medicine around in baskets for sale at markets and lorry parks.
Among the medications were steroids, pain killers, aphrodisiacs, multivitamins, cod liver oil, butt enlargement pills and various blood tonic.
Experts say one in 10 drugs sold in developing countries was fake or substandard, leading to thousands of deaths, many of them involving African children who were given ineffective treatment for pneumonia and malaria.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), counterfeit drugs were a growing threat as increased pharmaceutical trade, including internet sales, opened the door to toxic products.
Fake drugs could contain incorrect doses, wrong ingredients or no active ingredients at all.
At the same time, a worrying number of authorised medicines fail to meet quality standards because of improper storage and other issues.
Poor-quality medicines also add to the danger of antibiotic resistance which threatens to undermine the power of life-saving medicines in future.
The scale of the problem is hard to quantify precisely, but a WHO analysis of 100 studies from 2007 to 2016, covering more than 48,000 samples, showed that 10.5 per cent of medicines in low and middle-income countries were either fake or substandard.
A Reuters report indicates that up to 72,000 deaths from childhood pneumonia can be attributed to the use of antibiotics.